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WBB: Ags can't get in the zone at Georgia

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The Women's Bouncy Ball team lost for the first time ever to the Lady Bulldogs in Athens on Thursday night.

Coach Blair needs to figure out how to get the Ags back on track
Coach Blair needs to figure out how to get the Ags back on track
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

I watched this on SECN+ streaming, which was frustrating due to both the nature of the game and some marginal camera work and subpar announcing.

First Half

The Ags started Jada Terry, Achiri Ade, CWill, CWalk, and Jones. Shacobia Barbee started on the bench again despite a double-double against Vandy. Georgia was expected to play zone; they came out in the tandem 2-3 zone we saw vs U of H and stayed in it the whole game. The Ags stayed in man-to-man. After both teams started slowly and the game was tied at 6 at the first media timeout, the Dawgs went on a 11-2 run before Coach Blair called for a 30 second timeout. The lead fluctuated but Georgia took a 27-21 lead in to the locker room.

It was actually somewhat surprising that the lead was just 6. A&M shot just 37% from the floor while Georgia shot 48%. The Dawgs hit 2 treys while the Ags were 1-6 from behind the arc. At one point, CWill was 1-8 from the floor. To my eye this wasn't poor shot selection; A&M was probing the zone and not finding room to drive because Georgia was packing it in and daring the Ags to shoot over the top. With much better athletes than UH, they could close out in the more restricted space. Williams was taking shots that were the best of a set of poor options. I suspect Coach Blair agreed, as he left her in for the entire half; she finished the opening period 3-11. Meanwhile Jones was taking more 3s than usual as passes inside were not connecting to any of the three posts. JJ was 1-4 from behind the arc. Coach gave up on the bigs at the end of the half and had Achiri at the 5 playing with 2 fouls.

Ade's 2 fouls were a factor in getting outrebounded by 16-15 in the first half. Turnovers helped keep A&M in the game.

Like the Ags, Georgia's lineup is full of talented Juniors. But 6-2 Freshman F MacEnzie Engram came off the bench and scored 8 points to help build the Georgia lead at half.

Second Half

Coach Blair started the second half with the small lineup replacing Jada with Tori Scott, which put Achiri at the 5. Georgia scored first in the second half to get the lead to 9, but then the Ags started chipping away. Chelsea Jennings came in for CWill at the 16:27 mark and gave the Ags a lift with a couple of mid-range jumpers to cut the lead to 3.  Through my maroon-colored glasses, I kept thinking the Ags would put together a run and win the game. And they did tie it up at 37 with 9:47 to go a 3-pointer by JJ and take the lead on a Tori Scott jumper a minute later. The teams traded the lead and the Ags had a chance to stretch it when Shacobia Barbee missed a layup with A&M up 1. But Engram got the offensive board and after a timeout Walker fouled Tianna Griffin on a 3 point attempt.

Georgia stretched the lead to 6 4:43 to go. The Ags cut it to 1 with 3:30 left. Georgia went up by 5 with 1:38 left. CWill got the ball underneath to Achiri who made at tough layup with 1:16 left. The Ags looked like they had a much-needed stop when Marjorie Butler missed with 50 seconds to go... but then Engram grabbed another offensive rebound and the Dawgs had a fresh shot clock. But instead of running the clock, Griffin took a 3 pointer 15 seconds later... and missed. The Ags set up down 3 with Williams up top. CWill took a contested shot from the arc to tie the game and hit it...but her right toe was just on the line to make it a long 2. 52-51 Georgia with 18 seconds to go. Ags had to foul and Butler hit both. Georgia had fouls to give and used them to run the clock down to 4 seconds. The Ags got the ball in and Jones took a long 3 that missed.

Final score: 54-51 Georgia.

The Aggie D held Georgia to just 25% shooting in the second half with adjustments that looked similar to me to what we did vs Ole Miss to limit drives. But FTs killed us.

Overall/Misc.

"I like the fight of our kids, how they came back. Jordan (Jones) is going to have to knock down those threes. She made two that got us back into it in the second half. The bottom line is we've got to become a better 3-point shooter and we're not getting the job done inside at the five position."
- Gary Blair in the postgame

The role of the 3 in the Aggie offense has been a frustration for fans of the Women's Bouncy Ball team for several years. I understand Coach Blair's philosophy of attacking zone defenses, but it seems to me that this is a lot harder when the D sits back further inside the arc and you can't make them pay. The gaps are smaller. The adjustments are shorter. The passing lanes are more clogged. But there's a negative synergy going on with the post play. Part of what we want to do is have our 3 point shooters get the ball on a kickout from the post to punish a sagging double-team. But right now our posts aren't getting good position to take passes, and passes are missing them, so the kickout game isn't there either. That said, when we're struggling on offense vs a sagging zone, I wonder why we don't see more of Curtyce Knox and Taylor Cooper. Curtyce played 5 minutes but didn't attempt a shot of any kind. Taylor came in at the very end of the game. Transfer Shlonte Allen is a 3 point threat but is still recovering from surgery.

  • The big 3 of Jones, CWill and CWalk all finished in double figures but it wasn't an efficient offensive night.
  • Engram led the Dawgs with 16 off the bench and added 7 boards. She has the range to hit 3 pointers and was a force on the glass, leading to several of her points being on either putbacks or free throws after getting fouled on offensive rebounds. It seemed that we shut down the expected stars and didn't have a counter for her.
  • Georgia outscored the Ags 20-8 in the paint and 14-6 on second chance points.
  • The FT disparity was mind-boggling. The Ags had one shooting foul; a drive by CWill, who hit 1-2. Meanwhile Georgia shot 13-18 from the charity stripe. While it would be easy to blame this on the refs, a huge part of the disparity was that the Ags were not able to break down zone D, and weren't able to press the attack fast enough on turnovers. A&M only had 1 fast break bucket for the whole game, despite turning Georgia over 11 times (7 steals).
  • In case anyone involved in the 12thman.com website reads GBH: Take a look at how Georgia provides box scores for each half as well as for the whole game. I know you keep these stats. As a fan I appreciate having that, along with the play-by-play that records substitutions.

Up Next: #1 at their place

No relief in sight:

  • S. Carolina Lady Gamecocks
  • Monday January 26, 2015 6PM CST
  • Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.
  • ESPN2
As if it isn't tough enough to face the unbeaten #1 team at their place, the Gamehens had a bye on Thursday night, and should have no problem getting up for the Ags thanks to our being 3-0 against them all-time (all since joining the SEC), stealing Kelsey Bone from them, and that whole Yell Practice on the Capitol Steps weirdness (not these ones). Although the Ags have taken the previous meetings, 2/3 were razor thin victories, and S. Carolina has been learning to play as the favorite and is benefiting from the top recruit in the nation plus the development of one of last year's top recruits.

Small-ball was problematic against Tennessee. It's even more of an issue against the Gamecocks. They're big. Really big.

I'm not optimistic about this game, but I will watch and yell at the TV for the Ags.