Georgia had a simple game plan to stop Alabama and its high scoring offense — play zone defense to stop the Crimson Tide’s inside game of Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green.
However, it was the Crimson Tide’s outside shooting that ultimately did the Bulldogs (9-6, 0-1 SEC) in, as the Crimson Tide shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point arc (6-for-12) to send the Bulldogs to a 74-59 defeat Friday night in Stegeman Coliseum and bring Georgia’s five-game winning streak to an end.
Alabama (12-3, 1-1) — which had been shooting just 27 percent from behind the 3-point line this season — made 3-pointer after 3-pointer against Georgia’s zone, led by freshman Trevor Lacy, who went a perfect 3-for-3 on 3-point field goals in the first half.
“They haven’t been a great 3-point shooting team this year and we felt like that was the way we had to play,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “They made some shots in the first half. They made some NBA [3-pointers]. You got to give a kid credit for making a deep basket. If they are going to shoot a shot, that’s probably the one we want them to shoot.”
To compound Georgia’s problems on defense, the Tide didn’t just make shots from deep, as they still managed to get high-percentage shots in the paint throughout the game, shooting 55.1 percent from the field overall.
“It’s very frustrating (watching Alabama shoot the ball well) but at the same time we weren’t doing our job,” said senior Gerald Robinson, who scored 11 points. “We weren’t playing defense with the intensity we needed to for the whole possession.”
The Tide’s offensive dominance in the paint was highlighted by their effort on the glass, outrebounding the Bulldogs 35-20, which led to multiple second-chance shots.
“It was very hard because they surprised us, especially in the first half with their shooting percentage,” forward Nemanja Djurisic said. “We came out in the second half trying to shut that down but we gave up too many rebounds and they just beat us inside.”
“We just weren’t physical enough around the basket,” Fox added. “Obviously without Marcus [Thornton], we knew rebounding was going to be an issue, and they got us good on the glass. They whooped us on the glass.”
Despite a 38-26 halftime deficit, Georgia came out of the second half with a sense of urgency on defense, cutting the lead to four with 9:05 to go, as Fox’s zone defense strategy finally began to pay dividends, holding Alabama without a 3-point field goal in the second half.
The Bulldogs were once again led in scoring by freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and his 22 points, but against the Crimson Tide, Georgia even got some much-needed offense from its post players.
Donte’ Williams, who had been in foul trouble for much of the contest, scored 8 points in the second 20 minutes, including the putback dunk that cut the Alabama lead to four.
Georgia, however, was unable to keep up its high level of play as Alabama’s two best players — Mitchell and Green — took over again with high-flying dunks that took the wind of Georgia’s and the crowd’s sails.
“We got the game at a point in the second half where we needed it to be. We just didn’t take advantage of that,” Fox said. “At that point they made the plays and we didn’t.”