ATHENS — There were some important things to learn from Georgia’s men’s basketball exhibition Thursday night.
- New coach Tom Crean is going business casual for games. That is, jacket but no tie. Not clear if that will carry into the regular season.
- Rayshaun Hammond’s hair is a lot bigger this season. So is Mike Edwards’. Nicolas Claxton’s hair is not bigger, but his body is a lot bigger, which is a good thing.
- The length of players’ basketball shorts continues to travel upward. They’re getting close now to the mid-thigh look of the 1980s, but not up to the short-shorts of the 1970s yet. Hopefully the trend will stop here.
- The new black, chairback seats in Stegeman Coliseum look good and are quite comfortable. The new lights and graphics are pretty cool, too.
As for basketball principles and strategies, there wasn’t a lot to draw on Thursday night. It’s clear the Bulldogs will be looking to go fast and score a lot. The visitors from Division II, the West Georgia Wolves, were unable to put up much resistance on that front Thursday night as Georgia ran away with the 98-59 victory.
It was more points that the Bulldogs scored all last season, when they had a high of 87. Tyree Crump led the way with 18 points on six 3-pointers and Nicolas Claxton added 14 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks.
But Georgia had a high number of turnovers as well — 26 — including 15 in the first half. That’s the early downside in this transition to Crean’s free-form offensive philosophy.
“We’ve just got to get so much better fundamentally, it’s hard for me to stand up here and have a lot of positives,” Crean said. “It’s going to take time.”
Indeed, the Bulldogs played fast, but not necessarily well. In a word, sloppy.
Some of it seemed to come from hosting an over-matched opponent. Players tried all manner of exotic layups and dunks and quick-draw 3-pointers. Most of them were ill-advised and resulted in misses. Or, turnovers.
Georgia settled down in the second half and played more focused. In the end, the Bulldogs made exactly half of their 60 shots, 42 percent on 3-pointers and 79.4 from the foul line (27-of-34).
“We’re playing free, that’s how we’re playing this year,” said the 6-foot-11 Claxton, who made a 3 and brought the ball up the floor a couple of times. “It’s more position-less and we’re all starting to embrace it.”
Crean promised to play fast and free when he was appointed to succeed Mark Fox last spring. No matter who came up with a rebound, they advanced the ball down the court. Passes were generally limited to two or three before a shot went up. The Bulldogs never went very deep into the shot-clock.
All this was said of Crean before he arrived. If nothing else, his teams go fast, whether it’s to hurry up to make or miss a shot. But they tend to score high numbers.
“In honor of the great John Wooden, (who said) ‘be quick, don’t hurry,’ we’re hurrying way to much and trying to make plays that weren’t there,” Crean said. “We’ve got to get so much better and more efficient in so many different areas. But I liked the fact that we challenged shots and got fouled and moved the ball better.”
The Bulldogs don’t have much time to improve. The regular season opens on Nov. 9 against Savannah State. Then they’re immediately on the road with a Nov. 13 game at Temple.
“The good news is we have some more film to evaluate based on this game and the UAB game,” Crean said. “Now we have to get ourselves ready to go.”