Georgia looks to snap a three-game losing streak when it travels to Baton Rouge to take on No. 25 LSU on Wednesday night.
The Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the SEC and enter this game on a seven-game winning streak.
Let’s look at some players to watch, keys to victory, and my prediction for this meeting on the Bayou.
Players to Watch
Tremont Waters (LSU)
Tremont Waters is the catalyst for the LSU offense. At 5-11, Waters has a lot of similarities to former UGA guard JJ Frazier with his quickness, passing abilities, and craftiness to score around the rim.
The sophomore guard is averaging 13.5 points and 6.2 assists per game. He leads the Tigers in points and assists. He has been hitting his stride in conference play, averaging 17 points per game and shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.
Waters has the ability to get hot from the three-point line. However, he’s proven that he’s more than a three-point shooter. When he enters the paint, he becomes a dangerous facilitator in addition to being a threat to score.
It will take a great team defensive effort from the Bulldogs to slow down Waters.
Rayshaun Hammonds (UGA)
Aside from his 19-point second half performance against Vanderbilt, Hammonds has struggled in SEC play.
Hammonds has gotten into foul trouble early in games and when he has stayed on the floor, he has lost his aggression on the offensive end. He was held scoreless in the Bulldogs last game against Florida.
Although his game is not particularly on form, Hammonds could have a big game against LSU if he can be a successful downhill driver and finish around the rim. Playing in an up-tempo game should bode well for him.
Key to Victory for LSU
Pressure the UGA guards
LSU leads the SEC with 9.8 steals per game. The Tigers face a Georgia team that has the most giveaways per game in the conference.
Having two great on-ball defenders in Waters and Skylar Mays, LSU should extend a full court press against the Bulldogs. Even if they do not force a lot of turnovers by doing this, it will help eat up time on the shot clock and force the Bulldogs to get into its offense set with 15 or 20 seconds left in the possession.
If the Tigers can exploit the Bulldogs not having a true point guard, they should take care of business at home.
Keys to Victory for Georgia
Get Hammonds going early
Hammonds has been a non-factor on the offensive end of the floor in a couple of SEC games so far. Crean needs to give his sophomore forward some looks early to help build up his leading scorer’s confidence.
Crean noted in his postgame press conference after the Florida game that he was going to be “looking for creative ways to get him (Hammonds) the ball in better spots (on the floor)”.
Hammonds has been a streaky player in his sophomore season but he’s shown that all it takes for him is to see a few buckets go in, and then he can begin to fill it up.
He had a season-high 21 points against LSU last season when both teams met in Athens. It would be huge for the Bulldogs if Hammonds has a similar performance on Wednesday night.
LSU guard Tremont Waters will be a focal point for the Bulldogs’ defensive game plan. Although Waters has been great in SEC play, he is susceptible to making some errors. He is turning the ball over a little more than four times per game in conference play. The Bulldogs need to speed Waters up and get him out of his normal rhythm.
However, if one of Georgia’s defenders does get beat by Waters, the worst thing to do is to provide help defense. The other four Bulldogs defenders on the court have to stay glued to their man and not free up any of Waters’ teammates.
Although Waters has the ability to tear up a defense, he is not the only concern for the Bulldogs. Georgia faces a tough challenge because the Tigers are one of the best teams in the SEC in spacing the floor and cutting towards the basket. When LSU does this successfully, they typically get a bucket or draw contact and get to the free-throw line.
The Bulldogs are going to need to contain Waters, force turnovers, and have an all-around disciplined defensive effort to pull off the upset on the road.
Although the Bulldogs have had lackluster offensive performances in their last two outings, that will not be the case in this game.
I expect Crean to make a concerted effort to give Hammonds the ball early and help him finally break out of his offensive slump.
Teshaun Hightower will be given more space to attack off the bounce and should find success against LSU’s man-to-man defense.
Georgia is going to have some great moments offensively to remain competitive against a balanced LSU team.
However, the Tigers have too much firepower on offense for the Bulldogs to pull off the upset on the road.
Mays will make enough plays down the stretch to help the Tigers defend their home floor and remain perfect in SEC play.
Season Predictions Record (straight up): 4-1
Prediction: LSU 82, Georgia 73