After Saturday night’s heartbreaking 105-102 loss in overtime to Alabama, Georgia men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean answers some tough questions about the game and what’s next for the Bulldogs.
“To start it was tough. I was really concerned about that. Anthony barely made it back out for the tip. He was sick yesterday, missed practice. So actually while we were practicing he was in the health center for part of that. Rayshaun developed a headache. He deals with migraines from time to time. He developed that since he’d been in the building, so there was — I was really concerned about how we’d start knowing that we had a couple guys that didn’t have the normal energy, but we rebounded from that, and we got better. It wasn’t about scoring. It wasn’t about those type of things. We felt we could do that, we just did not do — at the end of the day, we did not do a good enough job in our on-ball defense, whether it be our one-on-one, whether it be our switching, our on-ball defense, our switch game, our communication game. We’re not there like they’ve got to be. And we work on it; it’s not like it’s a problem that just came up, so it’s something that we are working on constantly, and it’s just got to get to a point where we’re just going to have some — we’ve got to have a commitment to it when they’re on the floor, first or second half. We’re not just letting the dribble by us. We break our technique. Like I said, our communication is not as good in those situations, and it hurts us. We played well enough to win on offense. We played well enough to — I mean, free-throw wise, I thought we’d have more, but we didn’t. We’ve just got to guard the ball better, at the end of the day. Go ahead.”
Q. I don’t know how many lay-ups they ended up with, but you’ve talked about — is there an answer?
“We don’t have that one lock-down guy. We just don’t. Anthony comes the closest to it. But we’ve just got to — we’re letting the dribble by us, right, we’re letting dribble by us, and they’re a tremendous drive and kick team, so if you over-help they’re going to kick it out for the three, but you’ve got to bear down and guard the ball one-on-one, or when we’re switching, you’ve got to guard it one-on-one. We’re not giving enough support behind the ball with being vocal and with calling out, giving that guy — letting him know you’re right there next-man-in help. Some of it’s youth but some of it’s not youth. Some of it is just this team does not have that guy that’s just going to go lock it down. So it’s got to come from numerous guys. It just has to, especially in a league like this. It’s not like these leagues just have one or two good guys, so we have to get better, and it’s the same thing whether it’s man or zone. We just have to get better.”
Q. We saw a really good night from Wheeler tonight. What were your thoughts?
“He did a good job. He did a really good job. We were asking a lot of him. He’s getting better, works hard on his shooting. He’s a good defender. Kira Lewis is the fastest kid in the league and he might be the fastest kid in the country, but that’s why you’ve got to contain and control the first couple dribbles. I’m disappointed, and it starts with me, I guess, because I thought we would have some guys that would be in a better mode of like, no, you’re not going by me, and so I’ve got to do a better job of making sure that we’re developing that even more so every day than what we already are because that at the end of the day is what this comes down to, and especially in the last week and a half of what we’ve dealt with where we’ve just gotten beat off the dribble.”
Q. Talk about the job Alabama did setting screens tonight. He talked during his press conference how the team was setting screens.
“Yeah, I guess they were good. We knew they screened, but it’s more you’ve just got to stay in front of the ball whether you’re switching or whether you’re not. So I’m not sure it was the screening game that affected us as much as it was just our not guarding the ball as well when it started in penetration.”
Q. One highlight, Mike Peake; can you talk about him drawing the charge? He did get a stop there —
“Yeah, he’s giving better effort. We have to search and find for who’s going to guard the ball better and who’s going to be more of a presence in the post. You guys are watching the same game I am, so we’ve got to get better there, and we’ve got to try different things that we can to have that. We’ve got to have that physicality around the rim. We’ve got to have that level of toughness. I thought he did a good job defensively. There’s no doubt about it, he challenged, and if he continues to practice that way, then we can continue to get more out of him that way. He’s definitely playing with more consistency because he’s practicing with more consistency.”
Q. You had a few chances to tie the game up with threes there in overtime. Did you like the looks that you got there?
“Well, we had one time-out left and we had everybody spaced. At that place, Sahvir made some threes. We didn’t call a ball screen on that, which is to probe it and attack, and if we got down a couple of seconds I would have used the time-out there, and he just didn’t go. But when you’re down with one in that situation, you want to try to see if you can get a good look and if it’s not there you can call the time-out. If it had gone a couple more seconds, I probably would have called one, but the threes we missed were open.”
Q. Just curious about that last shot —
Q. Edwards right at the end —
“Yeah, we’re out of time-outs at that point. That’s an action that we have. He’s up — he didn’t even have to come back to the backcourt. But we’re fine. It’s three, right. Sahvir’s job right there is to get in the middle of the floor. He’s got Crump on one side, he’s got Edwards on the other side and then make the read. Where we would have had the screen set for is he fear, we didn’t need it because Ray was inbounding the ball, so that’s just part of a late-game get it up and take it. He must not have felt that he had the clean catch and shoot, and he probably didn’t, so he took the off the dribble. They were going to try to take the two corners. That’s why we wanted to get the ball in the middle of the floor, and Sahvir saw him open, and he hit him. I’m good with that. That’s one of the options out there.”
Q. In the big picture, is what you’re in right now part of this adjustment? It’s been harder installing your program, or do you —
“I think it’s all part. I’m sorry.”
Q. Or do you look at this as part of a slide or rut?
“No, I don’t look at it like that. No, we’re close. I’ve been a part of — this is the third program rebuild, and we’ve got a lot of young guys, a ton of them, and it’s not an excuse, it’s a fact, and it just is, and we’ve just got to continue to work through it. We’ve got to guard the ball better. That becomes more of an individual pride. We’re going to get down and guard better. There’s not an excuse being made for that. That just has to happen. But we’ve got to learn how to win, right. You get in these situations like the other day or Missouri, and we came back against Florida, we let Missouri back in it. We’ve just got to bear down, and we’ve got to have leadership on the court emerge, and it doesn’t matter if they’re 18 or they’re 22, and it’s those guys — last year Claxton gets those stops. Christian Harrison gets those stops. They’re not there, so we have got to have other guys that can bear down and make those plays. So it’s just all part of — this is the youngest team I’ve ever coached, and it just — it’s just part of it. I mean, we’ve just got to keep building through it. We’ve done a lot of good things, too. I don’t come in here and try to paint a rosy picture because I’m not standing up here feeling that way, but at the end of the day, we are doing a lot of good things. We just have to learn how to put people away, keep them away, and really for us it starts on how we guard that ball.”
Q. Do you feel like Wheeler was able to step in and kind of pick up what Anthony was missing with the flu?
“Well, they both start, so I don’t know how I’d even answer that. They’re both starting guards. Anthony had a tough — he didn’t feel good at all, and it is what it is. He didn’t know this afternoon if he was going to be able to play. And I thought — did he have his normal joy and energy? No, he didn’t. He couldn’t muster that up. He doesn’t feel good. I get it. I don’t feel good; I get it. But Sahvir rallied. I thought Tyree Crump did some good things. I could go down the line of some positives, but bottom line is we’ve just got to continue to get better individually with our individual defense, and we’ve got to give more support communicative-wise in those defensive situations.”
Q. You mentioned Edwards and Hammonds with their health issues. Your voice hasn’t sounded the same recently. What are you dealing with?
“I’m not feeling good. Do you ever get sick? Yeah, I am. I’ve been that way for a few days. It’s part of it. I’m on antibiotics just because you want to know. No, it’s all part of it. I’m 53, I can get my energy back up, right. Those kids, it’s tough. But that’s not an excuse. We’ve got to guard the ball better. We’ve got to guard the ball better. I started out with that because our energy was low to start the game, and I was afraid of that, but I thought some guys came in and picked it up. We were able to score. We didn’t have to hang our head because we weren’t scoring. We were scoring. But we’ve just got to bear down and get better defensively.”