After the Bulldogs chase Tennessee out of Stegeman Coliseum on the heels of an 80-63 victory, UGA men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean talks about the game and Georgia getting their first conference victory of the 2019-20 season.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys responded. Two really solid days, bouncing back. I thought our practices were really spirited. They were lively. They were competitive, and they bought into what we had to do. We weren’t as physical as we need to be when it came to the rebounding, but we were more physical than what we had been.”
“That’s the only way we’re going to win, and it’s really the only way you play Tennessee. They’re the way they are and he’s a Hall-of-Fame coach, Rick is, for a lot of different reasons, but everything starts at the top with the level of toughness that they have. His teams have always been that, going back to George Mason, Providence, Clemson, Texas and certainly at Tennessee.”
“Bottom line, is you’ve got to match that. You’ve got to match that when you play them. I thought our guys did. Proud of the way we kept the ball moving. Our offense certainly helped our defense, which is something they’ve got to continue to understand, when you go on the road, this is part of the maturity process, that if you move the ball, if you move without the ball, if you’re active and you don’t stand, even if you’re not making shots, if you guard well, if you rebound, if you get out on the break, good things will happen eventually.”
“But what happens to young teams, and ours is no different, when the shot is not going sometimes, the defense and the rebounding aren’t as good, and that’s the biggest Achilles heel we’ve got to continue to grow through with as many young guys as we have. So tonight was a good example of what happens when both parts are clicking, and I’m proud of the way that they played. We got a lot of contributions, and it was a great, great victory against a phenomenal program, and like I said, a Hall-of-Fame coach. Should be in the Hall of Fame. I’m not sure when he’s eligibility is, but he should be in there.”
Q. Any injury update on Sahvir?
“No, no update. He’ll rehab tonight, and we’ll be 24/7 with him on that type of stuff.”
Q. Also I see Jaykwon Walton wasn’t dressed out?
“Yeah, he’ll be back tomorrow. We’ve treated him. He took a shot in practice last week, and so we didn’t even travel him this past weekend because we were treating it concussion-like. It was concussion-like symptoms, but he doesn’t have it, and today was his last day of non-contact. So I think he’s back tomorrow. Full tilt tomorrow.”
Q. Can you just maybe capture the big picture of this? It’s a 63-point swing from when they beat you last year. You’ve got Kirby [Smart] here, Matthew Stafford here, David Pollack here. This was an event, and to get this…
“Don’t forget those 2,000 plus students that were here for the second time in a row. What was it, John [Bateman]?”
Q. 2,007 students tonight.
“I love that Kirby and the whole group is here, but I love that those students are here.”
Q. Making this an event where it’s becoming a place where people come…
“We have to get there. I mean, see, all I know is what I know. I don’t know what Georgia knows, right, and so all I know is what I know in the sense of how we built it at Marquette, how we built it at Indiana, and the bottom line becomes no matter what, everybody has got a high level of importance because they’re at your arena, and I know that sounds corny, but that’s the way it’s always basketball. You don’t make attendance jumps if you take it for granted. You don’t make attendance jumps — obviously you’ve got to have something they’re excited to see. It’s got to be a happening. It’s got to be an event. And I think there’s steps we’re continuing to take, and I think there’s steps we’ll continue to take to make it be that way that don’t have anything to do with the basketball. But the basketball is getting better.”
“I think people like the style of play. They’re excited, and I think they feel ownership, and I guess that’s the biggest thing that you want to have happen. We can use any adjective we want about the pageantry of it. It’s an event. But you want people to have ownership because when they have ownership in your program, you’re not just sold out for the biggest names on your schedule, and obviously the first two games with Kentucky and Tennessee are pretty big names. But when you really are building a program, and this thing really starts to be what it needs to be, we’ll be packed like that every night, and that’s what the goal is. That’s the way it gets built.”
“We had recruits in here tonight. It’s a school night. They’re in there. They can’t help but be excited about that. And to me, I’m just extremely grateful that there’s so many people that come out, that the students come out like that. There is excitement. And I think they’re enjoying themselves. I know that they’re bringing a lot of energy to us, as well. Does that make sense as far as what you’re asking?”
Q. After starting out with those first couple of conference losses, what does tonight mean to you guys moving forward?
“Well, I think the bottom line is you can’t stay behind too long. You’ve got to learn from that game. We can’t start looking ahead, right, because then it just — it’s complete stress, right. You just can’t do that. And you can’t — for a coach, every game is a must-win. That’s your stomach. That’s your mindset. You don’t want to bring that to your players, right, because that’s a level of pressure that they’re not built for that, right. Most aren’t. You want to get them to understand what causes you to lose so we can eliminate that as much and gets us to be able to win and try to focus on those things as much as possible. Our transition was better, our rebounding was better, our ball movement was better, our ball reversals were better.”
“Anthony was on different sides of the court more and more tonight, attacking from so many different areas. Anthony was on the attack. And when you’re on the attack, all of a sudden there’s the threes. That’s how we need to play, right, so you get so focused on that, you don’t really focus on your schedule. You focus on the opponent, what it takes, and then you just — you want the results to take care of themselves. But we don’t overly talk about the schedule. We don’t overly talk about, hey, we’re 0-2. We don’t do that, right, because all that’s doing is bringing needless pressure. We’ve got to improve. We have a very young team. I keep it in perspective and I go out and coach practice with perspective. We go out and coach practice to get them better, and at the end of the day we’ve got 10 new guys, so there’s got to be a little perspective. We’re trying to work on that. But it was a great victory against an outstanding program, no question about it.”
Q. I think Anthony has had bigger games but did this seem like his best all-around game tonight?
“I’m not a great ranker, but I’d say pretty close, yeah, because of the way he attacked. It was a great mix. He’s got a lot of pride. He didn’t like the way he played the other day. He didn’t like missing the free throws, those type of things. He’s very, very serious about being a winner. He’s very, very serious about learning how to be efficient, right, and learning what all those things take, and he’s also 18, right. So at the end of the day, I thought it’s a great example of when you’re on the attack, when the ball is really moving, when we’re playing from side to side, all of a sudden as much as everybody has got a game plan for you, you’re still getting open looks because the ball is moving. And when the ball is not moving and guys are standing, we’re like any other team in the country, real easy to guard. But when the ball is moving, the bodies are moving, it’s getting from side to side, there’s four or five passes, it makes everybody better. And I thought he was really locked in defensively, as well, for the most part.”
Q. Anthony said Tyree talked to the team at halftime about the Tennessee game last year and how the team needs to keep their foot on their neck with a big halftime lead. What does it mean to have a senior leader step up …
“That’s great. I didn’t know that. I wasn’t in there at that point, but that’s great. That’s great. He’s really — I think we’re going to continue to see Jordan, Donnell and Tyree really continue to grow in their own way as seniors on this team. And what I liked tonight was even though when Tyree wasn’t making those shots, he was still playing extremely hard, aggressive — I want him looking for that ball. I want him taking those shots. I thought Jordan did a good job, Donnell did a good job. So to hear something like that is a really good sign, and hopefully they’re listening.”
Q. I guess two, you’ve been outscored by double digits in the second halves the last couple games. To come out tonight and keep Tennessee at arm’s reach, how impressed were you…
“That’s a great step. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Q. What’s kept Anthony from being on the attack like you liked him tonight?
“I think he’s 18. I think he’s 18. It’s a growth process with him, and I think that’s the hard part, and I think it’s — let me put this in perspective. Who’s going through college basketball like he is right now? I mean, who is? We talk about that all the time. People want to be Anthony Edwards. Do you really?”
“There’s a lot of notoriety and a lot of accolades and a lot of attention, and we pull up in Memphis and there’s 15 to 18 people waiting to get autographs. I mean, it’s a different deal. And he’s 18. He should be a high school senior and has a lot to learn. So I think that’s part of it, like not predetermining — I mean, there’s a laundry list. Not getting fixed on one thing, learning to really see and read the game. Those are all things that he’s learning. Learning to put possession by possession together. He’s a young guy. I’ll have conversations with him sometimes about different things, and I’ll really realize just how young he is, and it hits me sometimes, like these guys are really, really young guys.”
“I mean, we can’t leave anything to chance in what they’ve got to learn, and then they’ve got to go out there and perform, and especially like him at a national level where all these eyeballs all across the country and world are on him, and it’s not an excuse, it just is. We just have to continue to help him grow and help him learn, and I think that’s what he’s trying to do.”