UGA men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean shares his thoughts on Georgia’s 79-69 loss to Kentucky in the Bulldogs’ SEC home opener on Tuesday night, January 7, 2020 from the Stegeman Coliseum.
“First and foremost, our first half was very much like we wanted it to be, and defensively we were doing a good job on the glass. And our defense was creating some offense for us. And in the second half we just weren’t nearly as good on the glass. They outrebounded us by 11 in the second half. Points off turnovers got us. And it had a lot to do with Nick Richards.”
“And we don’t have a matchup for Nick Richards. And we didn’t do a great job on a lot of their guys, but Nick Richards changed the game. We know when he plays well, they play well. And that’s exactly what happened tonight.”
“And we just weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be on the glass. And we knew going into this game — at least I knew going into this game, when it comes to the level of physicality, when it comes to the level of speed, when it comes to the level of aggressiveness, it should be unlike anything we had played at this point, and it was. And we’ve just got to learn how to compete better on the glass.”
“And I think there were times in the second half we let our offense — it was good at times, but I think we let that offense get us a little quiet in the second half, and then we weren’t nearly as good as what we wanted our defensive coverages to be. And we got a little too loose, got a little too disconnected from our man, and they made us pay. And then when it’s going like that and they’re aggressive, that’s where the rebounding changed on us. So go ahead.”
Q. The players, when they were in here, talked a lot about a lack of communication on the court and how that was a big problem particularly in the second half —
“Yeah, we got quiet defensively. We were not nearly as good in the way we wanted our coverages to be. And we weren’t as aggressive with them. And it got a little quiet. I think we got — they were just more aggressive than we were, and we didn’t keep the same level that we had in the first half. And I think with young teams — and they didn’t have this drought tonight. They didn’t have as good a first half because they didn’t have Nick Richards in. And they had a much better second half because Nick Richards was in. I mean, he’s playing at a very high level right now. We had some scoring but didn’t have a lot of scoring. And I think with young teams especially they start thinking about the last shot or the next shot more than they think about the next stop. And that’s something you have to deal with — and youth. And I think some of that happened tonight. And I think some of that happens when you don’t have that catalyst on the defensive end that’s setting the tone and setting the table for everybody else. And when the communication’s not coming from all five, it’s still got to get propelled by a couple of guys, and I don’t think we had that as much in the second half.”
Q. There was about a three-minute stretch midway through the second half that Anthony is on the bench with you. I don’t know if it’s coincidental they made a little bit of a push at that time and you brought —
“He’s got to rest up. We’ve got to get him out of the game some. There’s no rhyme or reason to — he wasn’t doing this or that. It was a stretch run coming and we’ve got numerous guys. The same thing probably happened — I don’t have it in front of me — but in the first half. We don’t have 40-minute players. That’s not what we have. And I had a team that was number one in the country at Indiana, Victor Oladipo played 28 minutes a game. Cody Zeller played, I think, 30. We were number one for I think 13 weeks. There are certain nights guys will have to play a lot of minutes. But you’ve got to get them a rest because you’ve got to be able to look ahead and see the stretch run. And sometimes that’s just the way it works out. But we don’t have a 40-minute guy on this team.”
Q. How much emphasis did you put on preparing Anthony Edwards and your other primary ball handlers for the defensive anchor that’s Ashton Hagans?
“Ashton is tremendous. We prepare with every game no different with today, get good screens. He’s going to blow up the hand-offs. We’ve got to do a good job there. Their defense was good. Our shot selection at times wasn’t as good. If you remember, we got some things at the rim fairly easily, too. And that’s part of it. Sometimes you have to take what the defense is giving you. But the biggest thing with Kentucky is moving them. But we missed some open shots, too. They did as well. It’s part of the game. I don’t know if this was any defensive situation where one or two guys just changed the tone for us; we didn’t rebound. We lost the game on the glass. That’s where we lost the game. And then the points off the turnovers, because some of our turnovers were on forced turnovers. They weren’t as much by the defense. They were unforced. That’s all part of it. I might have a different view when I watch the film, but that’s my recollection right now.”
Q. As far as the atmosphere tonight and the star power in the stands and the media room was packed, they had — (indiscernible) was here and everything. How much of that is being able to recruit a guy like Anthony Edwards and just instantly bring this attention?
“I thought the attention was great. I thought our crowd was unbelievable. And it’s going to hit me here in about 30 minutes, how disappointed I am for them because we had such a great crowd, such an electric atmosphere. People lined up. We’ve just got to continue to have that. That’s part of building a program. Part of building the program is not to have it just when Kentucky comes or coming off a great win like we had the other day; it’s getting it more consistent. I hope that’s going to be the next step for us because our fans have been unbelievable this year. So it was an incredible atmosphere. The atmosphere did everything they could do to help us. But they couldn’t help us get a rebound, unfortunately.”
Q. You mentioned the youth on your roster. What are some of the positives you can take away with guys playing in an atmosphere like tonight?
“It’s their first SEC game. Ten guys are on the roster that had their first SEC game. That’s perspective. And I have to keep it in perspective. And I will in a couple hours. But right now that’s what it is. Ten guys laced it up for the first time in an SEC game. One’s a senior, but it’s his first SEC game. So that’s what I have to remember, and that team has got — they’re young, but they’ve also got guys that have played a lot of minutes on that team. And they deserved to win because they dominated the glass and they got to the rim. And we did not get — we did not get very good defense from our better players tonight.”
Q. When you talk about the physicality and then maybe getting a little quiet on defense, how much do you attribute to, like you just said, you’ve got 10 guys playing their first game?
“I think you attribute a lot to it. Attribute a lot to it. And it’s hard. Right? It’s hard to keep doing it time and time again. They don’t go away. They’re incredibly physical and aggressive. That’s why they win. That’s why he’s such a great coach. That’s what it is. They’re going to keep coming at you. And they’re going to keep coming at you on the glass with two and three guys every time. So that’s all part of it. We’re not as physically strong as them. We know that. That’s why we have to do the switching and the things we’re trying to do. And it’s not the last time it’s going to happen with — we’re not going to have a matchup for a Nick Richards type of guy or somebody like that.”
Q. In the second half there were some transition opportunities that you said some unforced turnovers, how much of that is just your guys learning to play that fast together versus Kentucky’s athleticism and how hard they make those transition points?
“Yeah, we tried to make some passes that weren’t there. It ratchets up, obviously. I’m not taking anything away from their defense. It ratchets up. They’re quick, alert, quick twitch. Active wrists and hands. Long. Those things will cause a problem. But a couple of our turnovers were just flat out unforced. That’s part of it. But when you add that up with the rebounding and then not making shots that take your spirit a little bit away when you come back on the defensive end, that’s youth. That’s youth and that’s what we’ve got to continue to grow from. And now we’ve got an SEC game to learn from.”
Q. I know that it’s probably really difficult to look ahead considering this game just finished, but what have you seen so far from Auburn to what you think you have here?
“They’re really good. I haven’t watched them close enough. I’ll start the preparation here in a little while. But I haven’t studied them enough to know. I know they’re really good. I know they’re undefeated. I know they play extremely fast and they shoot the 3 at an incredible rate and they’re deep with the press. So we’ll get into that here a little bit later.”
Q. Coach Cal said his guys struggled tonight with free throws, but you guys shot well above y’all’s usual free throw average. Do you feel that helped you tonight?
“We didn’t win. So it didn’t help us enough, unfortunately.”