Georgia basketball will attempt to do what its vaunted football program could not on Saturday — beat an Alabama team that’s leading the SEC.
The Bulldogs (12-7, 5-7 SECO are a 13-point underdog against the No. 11-ranked Crimson Tide (16-5, 11-1) at 3:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum in the SEC Network-televised game.
It’s an experienced Alabama bunch featuring three fourth-year seniors in Herbert Jones, John Petty Jr. and Alex Reese.
UGA sophomore point guard Sahvir Wheeler enters the game leading the SEC with 7.3 assists per game and a 1.6 assist-turnover ratio.
“Wheeler’s gonna cause problems getting the ball in the paint, they’re one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the league, they play fast,” Tide coach Nate Oats said.
“No other team in the league besides us that wants to play up-tempo and fast so [we] gotta keep ‘em out of transitions as much as possible, gotta try and keep Wheeler out of the paint — it’s a lot easier said than done.”
The Bulldogs also have the league’s steals leader in graduate transfer Justin Kier, who is averaging 2.1 per game.
Alabama ranks No. 1 in the nation in adjusted defense, per the KenPom.com ratings, and will look to take advantage of a Georgia team that ranks 336th in the nation in turnovers.
The good news for the Bulldogs is that the Tide itself ranks 314th in turnovers, putting a premium in Saturday’s game on half-court defense and decision making.
“Alabama does a great job of setting the pace and finding the matchups they want to exploit,” Crean said. “That sets their drive and kick game, and they are constantly trying to get you to over help on the ball to create the open three. You can’t over help on their drives.”
Georgia will need to be disciplined to stay on the shooters, as the Tide leads the SEC with 625 made 3-pointers this season and is 12-1 when making at least 10 in a game.
Indeed, Petty is already Alabama’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 286 in his career.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have improved their 3-point marksmanship as the season has progressed. The team is now seventh in the league with 368 made threes while hitting at a 32.6-percent clip that ranks ninth.