After dropping their first two SEC games, the Georgia men’s basketball team has a chance to bounce back this week with games against Tennessee (1/15) at home, and against Mississippi State (1/18) on the road in Starkville.
Georgia (10-5, 0-2 SEC) lost their first conference matchup last Wednesday against Kentucky, 78-69. This past Saturday, Georgia was dominated by the Auburn Tigers, 82-60, on the road.
“We’re just getting started,” said head coach Tom Crean following the loss to Auburn. “Now we’ve got to play Tennessee, then we go to Mississippi State, then we go to Kentucky. We proved we can win on the road with Memphis so that was great. We certainly had our moments against Kentucky, but the other thing is we didn’t capitalize on points, on turnovers during today’s game.”
In the game against Auburn, the Tigers outscored the Bulldogs fifteen to four on points off turnovers. Georgia only had 14 turnovers to Auburn’s 12, but they just couldn’t seem to capitalize in those key moments.
“We were turning them over, there were turnovers, but we weren’t capitalizing on it,” said Crean. “I think we had six turnovers in the last twelve minutes of the Kentucky game that we didn’t capitalize on. Really good teams capitalize on the other team’s turnovers and we are not doing that. When we turn somebody over, we’ve got to go get that easy basket. Our lack of confidence when things weren’t going well, even in some point-blank ways like a free throw or a layup, hurt us on the other end of the floor. We’ve got to be able to grow and get out of that.”
Looking ahead, Georgia faces the Tennessee Volunteers (10-5, 2-1 SEC) who are coming off wins against Missouri and South Carolina. Georgia is 8-1 at home this season and plays well in front of a home crowd. Mississippi State (9-6, 0-3 SEC) is struggling as of late because they have dropped their first three conference games to Auburn, Alabama, and LSU.
Through 15 games, Georgia is averaging 78.2 ppg, which is 32nd in the country for scoring offense. Freshman standout Anthony Edwards is Georgia’s leading scoring so far averaging 18.7 ppg followed by junior Rayshaun Hammonds with 13.6. Graduate transfer Donnell Gresham Jr. is averaging 12.0 ppg as a starter, and third on the team in scoring.
As of late, all three players have struggled and so has the team only averaging 64.5 ppg since starting conference play.
If you recall, Georgia has ten new faces with nine of them being freshmen. Their youth has shown at times this year, and it can be irritating at times when things aren’t going right.
“I don’t know if it’s frustration as much as it’s youth,” Crean said. “There’s real confidence and there’s bravado. Kids have to learn, everybody has to learn. As a young kid you have to earn real confidence. You earn it.“
“… When our shots aren’t going, like layups and our free throws aren’t going, which is an anomaly for us, we let it affect our defense. We let it affect our rebounding big time. It’s the difference in going against a highly mature Final Four team that plays with tremendous spirit and energy versus a team that’s got to find some collective leadership.”