Preview: Georgia gets 2nd chance at #15 Kentucky
January has been a brutal month for Tom Crean's Georgia Bulldogs (11-6). Just take a look at the slate they've faced so far:
@ #9 Memphis
vs. #14 Kentucky
@ #5 Auburn
@ Mississippi State
Now for the second time in a two week span, Georgia will see the Kentucky Wildcats (13-4). In the last meeting between the two, Kentucky fed off of a late run to secure the 78-69 victory in Athens. Today, the Bulldogs will be looking for revenge in Lexington.
Georgia, coming off of a 32-point loss to Mississippi State is most likely at the lowest point they've been all season. In that game, calling Georgia's offensive play "stagnant" would be generous, as the Bulldogs only scored 59 points (currently averaging 77.6 PG). Georgia's 91 points allowed was the second most by an opponent this season.
Kentucky was upset on the road last week by South Carolina buzzer-beater, losing 78-81. But after an emotionally fought road-win against conference foe, Arkansas, the Wildcats will have all of the confidence in the world coming into tonight's match up.
Considering the difference in teams' confidence levels, that could be a reason that Georgia is seen as a 11.5-point underdog, as well as only having a 11.4% chance to win, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index.
While the game isn't expected to be close, if Georgia can repeat their first half performance for a full 40 minutes tonight, this game could be closer than some think. And as you may know, Georgia is excellent in close games, being 4-0 in games decided by 4 points or less.
Points: Anthony Edwards (UGA) - 19.1 PPG, Tyrese Maxey (UK)- 13.7 PPG
Rebounds: Rayshaun Hammonds (UGA)- 8.2 RPG, Nick Richards (UK)- 7.8 RPG
Assists: Sahvir Wheeler (UGA)- 4.7 APG, Ashton Hagans (UK)- 7.2 APG
Projected Starting Lineups:
G- (Grad.) Donnell Gresham Jr.
G- (Freshman) Sahvir Wheeler
G- (Freshman) Anthony Edwards
F- (Freshman) Toumani Camara
F- (Junior) Rayshaun Hammonds
G- (Sophomore) Ashton Hagans
G- (Freshman) Tyrese Maxey
F- (Sophomore) Immanuel Quickley
F- (Junior) Nick Richards
F- (Sophomore) E.J. Montgomery
Keys to the game:
1. Play uptempo basketball.
Georgia's willingness to control the tempo of the game will be the biggest factor in how this game goes. Overall, pushing the ball up the floor allows for the Bulldogs to match the offensive potential. Just look at the 37 points they put up on Kentucky in the first half of last week. That's because the uptempo pace wears down Kentucky's bigs, E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards, which gives Georgia a better chance to rebound, and creates scoring lanes on offense. Georgia has to control the tempo of the game to even have a shot in this one.
2. Shutdown Kentucky's attack to the basket.
If you re-watch the last match up between Georgia and Kentucky, the Wildcats found offense early by attacking the rim with Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans. But once Crean plugged Sahvir Wheeler to face guard Maxey, it limited the Wildcats' offense, and they were forced to take lower percentage shots. Kentucky is very good at getting to the bucket, and drawing fouls. Georgia was able to handle this task well last team, and they'll need to repeat the performance to be successful against Kentucky.
3. Rebound, rebound, rebound.
Most basketball coaches will tell you the game is decided upon the battle on the boards, and for the most part, that is true. Georgia's Toumani Camara and Rayshaun Hammonds controlled the boards for much of the first 30 minutes of the game two weeks ago. But as Georgia fell back into the slower paced tempo, Kentucky's Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery were able to rest on defense, leading to high energy on offense, grabbing a handful of offensive rebounds. Getting outrebounded late in that game became the Bulldogs' kryptonite. They can't afford to let that happen again, if they hope for a better outcome.