The story of the game was the first 10 minutes of the Second Half.
Defense has been a bugaboo for the 2019-20 Georgia Bulldogs and some of it is due to opponent points off turnovers and second chance opportunities. Tonight, the story was very different with Austin Peay and how this team responded to a clearly displeased Tom Crean at Halftime ought to be encouraging for the gauntlet ahead. When a team plays well offensively, it can often be a case of just making a lot of shots and it can be a flash-in-the-pan, but a defensive effort like Georgia’s in the first ten minutes to put an Austin Peay team that went on a 7-0 run to end the First Half is a big step.
Active Hands, Active Feet on Defense
In the First Half, Austin Peay’s defense dictated the last 6:09 (after the media timeout) with man-to-man pressure in full court situations, extended 1-3-1 Zone, and 2-3 Zone all mixed up. Georgia did not respond to it very well and it resulted in a scoring drought. Austin Peay held Georgia to only 3 points during this time and creeped back into the game making it 31-26.
Georgia’s response was not on the offensive end, but on defense. Georgia was disruptive along the perimeter and the team played like they had read the scouting report on Austin Peay. Rayshaun Hammonds did not let Terry Taylor dominate him and neither did Toumani Camara. The decision by Georgia to pressure along the perimeter while shading and denying Terry Taylor in the post left Eli Abaev open on the perimeter and high post. Tom Crean’s gambit was to force Abaev to be a focal point of the offense and to accept Taylor and Adams’ roles as shooters under duress. This gambit paid off in a big way.
What was notable was how well the Georgia players moved their feet and used their hands on defense during the ten minute period of defensive excellence. It sparked a 24-3 run for Georgia. Nothing was made easy for Austin Peay because of the excellent defensive footwork that kept players in a good defending position and did not allow Austin Peay opportunities to get to the rim with ease. Shots were forced up by the Governors. Better yet, every shot was challenged and second chance points were not had. It was constant duress by removing an offensive option and forcing Austin Peay into offensive stagnation. Georgia’s length and activity bothered Austin Peay and spurred the Georgia Offense.
Austin Peay was left confused by Georgia’s man-to-man defense and the occasional switches to 2-3 Zone while the Dawgs also disguised their man-to-man defense in a 2-3 Zone if the Austin Peay players did not move. Austin Peay had to combat a pseudo-junk defense, a zone defense, and a very active man-to-man defense.
This was Georgia’s BEST defensive effort of the season.
Second Half Featured Better Shot Attempts on the Perimeter
In the First Half, the shot attempts were poor from the perimeter. Austin Peay’s zone and the decision to sag off Tyree Crump who was settling on the wing in perhaps too eager of a fashion to shoot rendered the offensive approach dead in the water. There were no efforts to move the 2-3 Zone or 1-3-1 Zone in a fashion that creates openings, floods or mistakes. There were just heroic efforts on sterile three point attempts. Downhill passes into three point shots along the wing without even penetrating the three point arc in the possession resulted in missed shots. This is a familiar sight.
Georgia is not a strong three point shooting team, but shot selection and shot setups are a major reason why the team is so terrible that opponents choose to sag, pack, and zone against them even when the opponent typically plays man-to-man defense.
Austin Peay went back into a zone defense in the Second Half. Austin Peay Head Coach Matt Figger chose a 2-3 Zone rather than the 1-3-1 Zone. Sahvir Wheeler and Donnell Gresham Jr. did a good job moving the two defenders defending the top of the key and the wings. Wheeler was able to make the defenders pinch and shift in anticipation of a drive to take a defender out of his coverage area and it left Rayshaun Hammonds alone to comfortably make a three point shot. The 2-3 Zone was bested more times by the Georgia Zone Offense as the movement and threat of the drive allowed for Anthony Edwards to be able to catch the ball at the Free Throw Line and have three options, two of them are to pass to baseline cutters and the other is to score himself. Once this was established, the defense softened up considerably to set up three point shots in the corner from Gresham. The ball movement and movement without the ball was far more competently handled resulting in higher probability shots.
Figger’s decision to get out of 2-3 Zone and go into man-to-man defense was a questionable decision, but it benefited Georgia greatly. Georgia was able to drive and cut as they wished, it also set up kick out opportunities and this resulted in made three point shots. Figger did not shift back into 1-3-1 Zone and this was a massive mistake on his part as going back to man-to-man defense with a team that was lacking depth against an aggressive offense like Georgia’s seemed counterintuitive. This was possibly a sign that Figger gave up and conceded the outcome of the game eight minutes into what would be a 23-4 run for Georgia.
Georgia went 6/9 from three point range in the Second Half after a 2/12 effort in the First Half.
Did Georgia do the things they needed to do to win this game?
X-Factor Points Breakdown
- Points off Free Throws: Austin Peay 11, Georgia 8
- Points off Turnovers: Austin Peay 8, Georgia 13
- Second Chance Points: Austin Peay 4, Georgia 13
Georgia won the X-Factor Points in two out of three categories and won it overall 34-23.
- Defensive Rebounding rate: 76.9% (beats the 72% threshold)
- Turnover rate: 26.4% (this exceeds the 18% threshold, this is not acceptable)
- 5 of Georgia’s turnovers were live ball turnovers, 73.6% of Georgia’s turnovers were dead-ball turnovers.
- The lack of live-ball turnovers is a good thing, but the turnovers are still bad.
- Free Throw rate: 23.2% (Georgia is not getting to the Free Throw Line enough)
- Free Throw shooting percentage: 61.5% (Unacceptable)
Types and Situations of Turnovers that Georgia commits
- Passes that are made to teammates who are too close.
- Lack of awareness of the sideline.
- Parallel cuts to the driver when the driver expects an angular cut as an option.
- Extension of the arm.
- The wrong type of pass is being used. Posts getting bounce passes that are far too low.
- Jaykwon Walton was in street clothes tonight and some observed that he may be wearing a boot.
- Mike Peake saw more extended action tonight playing 10 minutes. He is learning as he is going along.
- Toumani Camara is asserting himself more in the interior, but still struggles with a flat shot. Do not be surprised if his shot mechanics are doctored during the offseason, he is not a good shooter anywhere on the floor and there is room for wholesale change.
- Donnell Gresham Jr. has been a quiet contributor this season helping the Dawgs extend possessions, get extra possessions, and close out games at the Free Throw Line. Tonight, Gresham was able to show the shooting touch that he had during his time at Northeastern going 3/5 from three point range.
- Anthony Edwards could end up being more of a distributor and defensive presence as the season moves along. If his teammates gain more confidence and the attention on Edwards continues, this may result in more offensive efficiency.
- Christian Brown and Rodney Howard showed some defensive progress tonight. Recognizing their value as secondary defenders to make the more athletic plays on the ball.