Georgia men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean spoke to the media on Feb. 21 prior to the Bulldogs’ trip to Nashville, Tennessee, for a clash with the 9-17 Vanderbilt Commodores. Here are some takeaways from the Red & Black:
Even in Georgia’s impressive defensive performance against Auburn on Wednesday, there were still shortcomings on offense. The Bulldogs shot 36.8% from the field against the Tigers and turned the ball over 15 times. Crean focused on the turnovers in particular and said it comes down to his players not being strong with the ball and trying to force passes.
Anthony Edwards was especially prone to giving up the ball too easily against Auburn, finishing with seven turnovers to just three assists. Edwards averages 2.7 turnovers a game, and his total against the Tigers is his career high. Crean knows Edwards isn’t the only Bulldog victim to poor decisions, however.
Crean said that he will have graduate assistants and managers swiping at the ball on the perimeter and the rim during practice. He thinks those types of measures will help reinforce the need to protect the ball.
“We have to make simple plays, and the better that we do that, the better we’ll be,” Crean said.
‘Woulda, coulda, shoulda’
Georgia’s 65-55 win over Auburn showed that the Bulldogs could compete with anyone in the SEC. It also brought some feelings of what could’ve been in the 2019-20 season.
The Bulldogs have held double-digit leads in four SEC losses, including two squandered 20-point leads on the road against Missouri and Florida. Crean likened the losses to a stretch of four games last year. From Feb. 16-27, 2019, Georgia played LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Auburn. Three games were decided by one possession and one by two possessions.
This time around, the games haven’t been closer, and there’s one huge difference — Georgia has been in control in all four losses. The same can’t be said for last year’s team. If the Bulldogs held onto those four games this season, the makeup of the SEC could be entirely different. Georgia would be sitting at 17-9 overall and 7-6 in the SEC.
“[The losses] stick with you in the offseason, and there's no doubt about that,” Crean said. “But right now we're in real time, so there's not a lot of time to be able to worry about that.”
Crean knows he can’t spend time dwelling on those losses because he would be doing a disservice to his team. He wants to focus on using those situations to help learn, progress and build the confidence of his players.
Crean is still prepared for a tough battle against Vanderbilt, despite its 9-17 record. The Commodores have had an extra day to prepare for the matchup and are hosting the Bulldogs in Memorial Gym on Saturday at 6 p.m.
In Jerry Stackhouse’s first year as head coach, Vanderbilt has established a distinct style of play — spreading the floor and letting 3-pointers fly. The Commodores average 8.4 made 3-point shots per game, which is second in the SEC behind Alabama.
Crean keyed in on 6-foot-9 Dylan Disu, who does a solid job shooting from distance and strengthens Vanderbilt’s five-out on the perimeter offense.
Saben Lee will also prove to be a tough matchup for the Bulldogs on Saturday. The junior guard ranks No. 6 in the SEC in points per game at 17.3, and Crean said his quickness reminded him of Kira Lewis Jr. of Alabama. Lewis scored 37 points against the Bulldogs on Feb. 8.
“We've got a lot to learn in a very short period of time, but we're coming off an outstanding victory and that certainly helps,” Crean said. “Now we just have to make sure that everything we're doing is to build on that and lock into this game.”