ATHENS — Kentucky coach John Calipari raised eyebrows last spring when he said Georgia basketball head coach was one of the top three jobs in the SEC.
First-year coach Tom Crean has yet to make that a reality. Crean’s Bulldogs are 9-7 overall and 1-3 in the SEC at what’s essentially the hallway point of the season.
“Here’s what Tom is doing, he’s playing a different style, he’s spacing the court, he’s bringing people out, they are long and active and they offensive rebound the crap out of the ball, that’s what he’s got them doing,” Calipari said Tuesday night. “This game got away from them in the end, really the beginning of the second half, and then we kept it there.
“ Like every game I’ve watched, they had their chances. At Auburn they had their chances to be right there and win the game, and that’s a hard place to play. So he’s doing a good job with this team.”
Georgia has indeed competed.
Crean’s system has provided an offensive liberation of sorts, with players enjoying more offensive freedom through the Bulldogs’ spacing.
Florida is next up on the Bulldogs’ schedule, the Saturday noon game at Stegeman Coliseum already sold out.
Georgia has impressed in wins over Oakland, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt, and nearly pulled off an upset over then-ranked Arizona State.
“It seems it’s just a matter of getting players who can shoot effectively from 3-point range, as UGA’s struggle from the perimeter has been real.
Kentucky led just 35-31 on Tuesday night despite Georgia hitting just 2-of-13 from 3-point range in the first half of a 69-49 loss to the Wildcats.
The Bulldogs rank 287th in the nation out of 351 teams (and 12th of 14 teams in the SEC) in 3-point shooting accuracy (31.6 percent).
The rise of 6-foot-11 sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton has been a highlight for the team, wit Claxton leading the SEC in rebounding (9.4 per game) and blocked shots (3.3) while leading UGA in assists (2.1 per game) and in scoring (12.6 points per game).
“He’s a unique player, and all the tape I’ve watched, I like what Tommy is doing with him,
pushing him a different places around the floor at times, at the rim, at times, at the top of the key, letting him shoot,” Calipari said. “He’s letting him grow and living with it, and 9 rebounds and 12 points (Tuesday night), that’s pretty good stuff.”