ATHENS – Mark Fox, frustrated after another turnover-plagued game on Tuesday night, finished his postgame press conference with a warning: “We may have to go back and play like we did a couple years ago: Very slow. And let me control every possession from the bench. And make every decision from the bench.”
That was three days ago. So the natural question, as Georgia prepared to head for Tennessee for Saturday’s game, was whether Fox still thought so.
The short answer: Yes.
The (slightly) longer version of Fox’s answer:
“I think we have to take better care of the basketball. Some of that is decision-making. I think at times we’ve played faster than maybe we can play well, and we have to learn how to manage tempo. But we may have to pull the reins back a little bit, just because that turnover number has been a problem.”
These two things are both true: Georgia has played much more up-tempo than in previous years, and as a result its scoring average is up. But so are turnovers. And it’s a big reason Georgia (13-11 overall, 4-7 in the SEC) has had such a disappointing season.
Georgia is averaging 72 points per game, which is the third-lowest in the SEC, but also the most during Fox’s eight-year tenure. But the average of 14 turnovers per game is the highest its been since the 2012-13 season, the team’s last losing season.
Sophomore Turtle Jackson, who has started at point guard most of this season, said that the point guards have rarely looked to the sideline for instructions this season. Fox has given them more leeway.
“Once the point guard calls the call, we know what to do, because we’ve been going over and over it so much,” Jackson said.
When the Bulldogs get a defensive rebound, they move quickly downcourt, trying to catch the other team in transition. And they’ve done that after opposing baskets too. (Fox said they didn’t run as much after other team’s made baskets as in previous years.)
But the decisions the Bulldogs make while moving quickly downcourt don’t always pay off. And their half-court offense is too often stagnant, leading to turnovers.
“I think we’re still going to try to hunt easy baskets. We’re definitely going to try to do that,” Fox said. “But we have to now exactly what we’re looking for, and if it’s not there we’ve got to be patient enough to get deeper into the clock.”
But can you change that approach, at least effectively, this late in the season?
“Yeah, I think we can,” Fox said. “We’re working to improve it. We don’t want to go at a snail’s pace, certainly. But we want to make sure that we’re very diligent in trying to hit singles instead of so many triples. But we also have to be more careful in the half court and not so careless.”
Georgia, like all teams, charts its turnovers, and Fox indicated that there’s a close to even “sprinkling” between turnovers in transition and the half-court. It’s also not just bad passes or mishandled balls. Fox pointed to offensive fouls, which also count as turnovers.
In the overtime loss at Florida, for instance, Yante Maten was called for multiple fouls while trying to clear out. Maten in particular, as the team’s leading and most dependable scorer, occasionally “tries to do too much,” in Fox’s words, and that backfires.
“We need to be more careful with the ball, and not overthink things, or just go straight with things.,” Jackson said. “Just trust in everybody.”