Radio: Mickaholics Anonymous
When Georgia came to Knoxville, they were fresh off a mild upset victory over Texas A&M in Athens. (At the time, A#M was #10 and UGA was #22.) During the game against Tennessee, junior PG Shacobia Barbee went down to a season-ending leg injury late in the first half and Georgia went down 59-51. Since then, Georgia has been in a death spiral of offensive malaise leading to losses leading to disappointment leading to uninspired play leading to offensive malaise leading to [...] leading to 7 straight losses, culminating in Auburn's first conference win. In Athens
Let's talk about that Auburn game very briefly. The final score was 44-26. Georgia shot 24% from the floor and 2-4 from the free throw line. They committed 27 turnovers (now go read that final score again: you don't often see TOs > points). Auburn had 31 rebounds (so opponent boards > points), and Georgia went 11-45 form the floor (34 missed shots, so misses > points). We know Georgia has more talent that this: this is a team that's broken.
To add further to this point: since Barbee's injury, Georgia has cracked 60 points exactly once - an 80-72 loss @ Kentucky (insert UK halfcourt jokes here). Other tallies? 51 @ UT, 35 vs Carolina, 48 @ Arky, 48 vs. Florida, 52 @ LSU, and the 26 vs. Auburn. Part of this is pace: Georgia is one of the few teams that gets fewer possessions/game than Tennessee. Against Auburn, they had 61 possessions, which means tonight's game is likely to be a long, slow death march.
It doesn't get better for Georgia tonight. Harrison's injury could have meant a significant regression for Tennessee (and there has been regression, but not as much as feared). Unfortunately for the Dawgs, UT played a smart, competitive game in Carolina and lost largely on the absence of Harrison's boxing-out ability. Carolina had 21 offensive boards - 9 by Welch alone - in a game they squeaked out by 5 points. Boxing out is very fixable in the time remaining, but everything else by Tennessee worked well enough to win.
Finally, Andy Landers is facing apathy not only from the players, but from the Georgia fans. For the three or four of us who bother looking at these things, there was very little on Twitter from UGA fans regarding the losing streak. What little was mentioned was largely speculation of whether the game has passed him by (a bit, but it's not really the main problem so much as other teams getting better around him). Were this a men's sport, Landers would be on the way out in a hurry. As it is, this offseason may clarify how much the UGA athletic department cares about women's squeakyball.
Anyhow, enough of the depressing stuff. About Tennessee:
Lady Vols fans have to be encouraged by the game against South Carolina. Yes, rebounding was a disaster thanks to terrible boxing-out, but everything else was tilted in Tennessee's favor. The floor percentages were similar (43% for UT and 42% for Carolina), but many of Carolina's made shots came after the aforementioned O-boards. This is a bit of wet-thumb-in-the-air math, but the percentages on primary shots (shots not taken after O-boards) were closer to 38% for UT and 31% for Carolina. (Again, don't take those numbers as accurate; I'm not going through the play by play to figure it out properly.) Turnovers were down to 6 (!!!) for the whole game for Tennessee.
Box-outs are fixable (well, at least markedly improvable) in short time. This team has potential to make noise, even with the permanent deficit in the post rotation.
So.... keys to this game:
- Strike early and hard. Georgia is demoralized and looking forward to the end of the season. Get an early lead and don't give them reason to hope for an upset.
- Fix the box-outs. This is even more obvious than the first bullet point.
- Shorten the bench. Against Carolina, all starters had 33 or more minutes (Reynolds had 33), with Nared getting 16 minutes and Moore/Middleton getting 1 and 2 respectively. Granted, when you have an entire starting lineup off the floor thanks to injury/ineligibility (Harrison/Russell/Tucker/DeShields/Jones), your bench is shorter than expected. But this 6-man rotation is enough for the first half so long as fouls don't cause problems.
That's it, really. Since Harrison's injury, the more guard-focused offense has looked fantastic. Keep it rolling.
Prediction: 75-50 Tennessee. Oh, yes. There will be blood. Chris is in full-on Landers mode and is going with 153-4 in honor of their 26 point effort vs. Auburn.
More time for Moore. That one minute vs. Carolina was a surprise. Let's say 15 total minutes tonight, largely due to a big lead that allows more bench minutes.
REFCON 4: There's a very good chance of Mattingly or Enterline tonight, but it's not going to matter. They don't have Izzy to push around anymore, and Georgia's not going to be up for this game anyhow. We don't downgrade to REFCON 5 simply because there's a chance of their appearance, but the consequences are minimal.