ATHENS, Ga. — Tom Crean’s postgame press conferences typically go straight to the point, and Tuesday night’s was no different.
What happened in the 69-49 loss to No. 12-ranked Kentucky?
“They are really good, we missed a lot of open shots, they’ll get better, we’ll get better, but the bottom line is outside of basketball-wise, our maturity, mental toughness has got to pick up when things are not going well for us,’ Crean said.
“I know we don’t have a lot of guys that have been through a lot of battles where they were the guy expected to carry the team the team, but that’s not an excuse, now we have to step it up and keep going.”
Georgia is 0-6 this season when tied or trailing at the half, and in embarrassing losses to Tennessee (96-50) and now the Wildcats, the Bulldogs’ didn’t show much fight on defense or in 50-50 scrambles.
Crean, with the Bulldogs (9-7, 1-3) SEC next facing Florida at noon on Saturday, sounds like a man on the verge of making changes.
“It would-be different if I was hammering guys and pulling guys out left and right because we’re missing shots, but I’m not doing that, but I’m going to have to start doing it if we’re not going to guard better on the defensive end,” Crean said. “And I’m going to have to make an adjustment at the start of the second half.
“I don’t want to say we’re listless, but we’re not nearly where we need to be aggressiveness-wise. I’m going to deep dive into that to see if we need to make changes at the start of the second halves.”
Kentucky used a 9-0 run to open the second half on Tuesday and blow open what had been a contested game through the first half,
The Wildcats held a slim 35-31 lead at intermission despite UGA making only 2-of-13 shots in the first half.
Georgia senior point guard William “Turtle” Jackson, who was 1-of-8 shooting and 0-for-5 from 3-point range, said the team would be ready to go back to work at practice on Thursday.
He didn’t say anything about getting extra shots on his own on Wednesday, the team’s off-day.
More time in the gym shooting is often what separates good teams from great teams, and the numbers suggest it’s something the Bulldogs clearly more of to be competitive in the SEC.
Georgia was 326 of 351 in 3-point shooting last season and entered Tuesday night 238th of 351 teams.
“Our four main guards were (2 of 19) from the three,” Crean said. “We let it affect our transition defense, a couple of turnovers that make no sense …. “
Georgia also committed more turnovers (14) than assists (12), giving UK a 14-6 edge on points off turnovers.
“There were a couple of times we didn’t look at our target, and they shot the gap,” Crean said, explaining some otherwise puzzling give-aways. “We had a couple seniors do that, and it’s a joke when you get in your senior year at Georgia, you can’t make those passes.”
Kentucky also outscored Georgia 40-22 in the paint, even after senior center Derek Ogbeide opened the game with three dunks in the opening five minutes.
Ogbeide didn’t score after that, finishing with as many turnovers (3) as rebounds (3).
What happened to Ogbeide, Crean was asked.
“We tried to make some plays that weren’t there, he didn’t roll quite as hard a couple times as he could have, we got him the ball in the post and he was tentative with it,” Crean said.
“They clamped down a bit, that was part of it,” he said. “But when we throw Derek the ball, he needs to score or get fouled, he doesn’t need to sit there and have like an hourglass, where time is wasting. I tell him that every day, we’re throwing you the ball for a reason, don’t stand there and wait, cut, I mean, rip it open, drive it, go score, or that’s when the length starts to take over or he rushes.
“We work on those things, he’s got to get better, and I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t think that he could.”
Crean said he’s going to continue to emphasize the positives, and he said he has been happy with how hard his team practices and their focus coming into games.