Georgia basketball got dealt a wake-up call in the Cayman Islands Classic, and new Bulldogs coach Tom Crean is intent to make the most of it.
Georgia State embarrassed Georgia on Wednesday, 91-67, a day after No. 16 Clemson dealt Crean and his Bulldogs a 64-49 defeat.
“These tournaments reveal where you are at,” Crean said in a school release. “If you handle it right then you grow from it and then you rebound. There is no question that they popped us.
“I told my team that they didn’t lose this game today; they lost it in practice leading up to the tournament… we have a long way to go, but we are starting now. It has now been revealed about how we have to get better, and I’m looking forward to being with them and finding out who we are.”
Crean knew when he took over the Georgia men’s basketball team that he had his work cut out for him.
The Bulldogs have made use one NCAA Tournament appearance the past seven years (2015), and they were picked to finish 13th in the 14-team SEC.
The team has shown a tendency to play passive, almost as if its waiting for former SEC Player of the Year Yante Maten to come running out of the tunnel and carry them on his back as he did for three seasons.
Crean has said numerous time in his short tenure that he doesn’t have any starters, in the sense that none of the returning players have stepped up with enough assertiveness to separate.
Rayshaun Hammonds leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game, and Nicolas Claxton averages 11.5 points and 8.0 rebound per outing.
But the team is shooting just 30.8-percent from beyond the 3-point line, with 104 turnovers to just 91 assists.
Crean has proven he can rebuild a program before, taking tradition rich Indiana from shambles to a 10-week stint ranked No. 1 in the nation and atop the Big Ten.
But Crean will need more effort and toughness from the Bulldogs players, who showed little fight down the stretch of the shocking blowout defeat to Georgia State.
“We have a lot of growing up to do, and we will,” Crean said. “We have got to get it turned around in a hurry, and we have got to go home and get better and get in better shape.”
The Georgia basketball fans have been on board for Crean’s high-tempo style, with the largest home-opener crowd (9,018) in 37 years in attendance for a 110-76 win over Savannah State earlier this month.
The Bulldogs return to action at 7 p.m. next Tuesday against Kennesaw State, looking to regain the momentum of their 3-1 season start.