Georgia found itself in perhaps a tougher-than-expected game against South Carolina-Upstate Tuesday night. A lot of that had to do with the Bulldogs being baited into the 3-pointer when they were on offense.
The Spartans elected to play a zone defense for the majority of the game. The goal, it seemed, was to give what Georgia players might feel were open deep shots.
The strategy worked.
Georgia shot a lot more 3-pointers than it is accustomed to putting up, ending with 22 attempts in Tuesday’s 74-65 win over USC-Upstate. And unfortunately for the Bulldogs, only five sank through the bottom of the net. After the game, head coach Mark Fox expressed his displeasure with his players relying on the 3-ball so early into possessions against USC-Upstate.
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“We were so impatient,” Fox said. “We got a few guys who are just trying to shoot the ball so they can get more playing time. That’s not how you get more playing time, by scoring. You don’t score your way onto the court. You have to make the right play. Sometimes that is scoring, but it’s not just that. I thought we were very impatient. I thought we settled for the 3 a lot. I thought we took some very poor ones, thus our percentage ended up being what it was.”
Georgia’s 23 percent showing from the 3-point line put it in a precarious position in the second half. The Bulldogs actually trailed by five points with 6:40 to go. But Georgia didn’t begin to get back to its top strategy of feeding forward Yante Maten the ball repeatedly until less than 12 minutes to go in the game.
At that point, Maten had only seven points. Maten was then fouled and went to the line to hit two free throws with 11:21 to play in the second half. Including those two freebies, Maten would go on to score 15 of his 22 points to close the game.
Maten agreed with Fox that Georgia probably settled for the 3-pointer a little too much during the game. But he also credited the Spartans for presenting what appeared to be open looks from the perimeter.
“Their zone was really good,” Maten said. “It kind of made us look like we were very open on the 3-point line, so that’s why I’m assuming a lot of shots were attempted. They played inside to get us back out.”
Fox said the game will serve as a learning experience for his players to ensure it plays within itself and doesn’t delve outside of the game-plan. One of the reasons he tweaked the lineup in the second half, which shot Mike Edwards’ total minutes up to 23 minutes for defensive purposes, was because he was unhappy with how his team was attacking the Spartans on both ends of the court.
But while the Bulldogs struggled through the majority of the game, they were able to pull away late and win by nine points.
“We came out with the win so that’s the best thing we could do, no matter what it was – the 3 or inside-out,” guard Turtle Jackson said. “The main goal, we reached it.”