Tom Crean: We Want Year-Round Winners

February 19, 2019
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Georgia Basketball Game Notes
Georgia (10-15, 1-11 SEC) vs. Mississippi State (18-7, 6-6 in SEC)
Wednesday, February 20 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Stegeman Coliseum (10,523) in Athens, Ga.
Watch: SEC Network (Roy Philpott, play-by-play; Daymeon Fishback, analyst)
Listen: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network Flagship: WSB AM 750 Atlanta; XM: 381; Internet: 972. (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Tony Schiavone, producer)

The Starting 5…
• Georgia is averaging 9,038 fans over its 14 home dates, the highest tally since averaging a school-record 9,857 fans during 2002-03 season.
• Nicolas Claxton is one of five Division I MBB players to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals.
• With an average 10,021 fans, Stegeman has been 95.2 percent full for UGA’s SEC six home dates. That’s 3rd best in the league.
• Derek Ogbeide is No. 9 among UGA’s career rebounding leaders...and is currently nine boards from the No. 8 spot.
• UGA’s coaching staff sports a combined 80 seasons of D-I experience (Crean-28, Scott-27, Dollar-23, Abdur-Rahim-12) with 38 postseason bids


The Opening Tip
After five-consecutive midweek road trips, Georgia will host its first non-weekend game outing Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday when Mississippi State, the SEC West’s version of the Bulldogs, travels to Athens.

The contest will be the Georgia’s first midweek home game in 51 days, the first since hosting No. 12 Kentucky on Jan. 15.


Finally...Some Available Tickets
The Mississippi State game will likely snap a streak of six-consecutive home sellouts for Georgia. In fact, every game since the Vanderbilt contest on Jan. 9 was sold out before the calendar rolled over to 2019.


Series History With State
Georgia is 58-54 all-time against Mississippi State, including a 29-19 advantage in games played in Athens.


Up Next: Dogs Trek to Hotty Toddy
Georgia will travel to Oxford this weekend to take on Ole Miss at 3:30 p.m. ET. 


The Dogs Are Drawing
Last Saturday’s LSU game upped Georgia’s season attendance numbers. 

The Bulldogs are averaging 9,038 fans over 14 home games this season, their highest average since a school-record mark of 9,857 during the 2002-03 campaign. If it holds, that would be the third-highest average in school history.

Tom Crean’s inaugural season with the Bulldogs’ has carried historic ramifications for Georgia Basketball from an attendance standpoint, including:

• Georgia announced sellouts of the Florida and Kentucky games on Oct. 24, the earliest date for a game to sell out in program history.
• The Texas game became a third sellout two days later on Oct. 26. Before this season, the Bulldogs never had more than one sellout prior to beginning the regular season.
• In December, all available tickets for the LSU, South Carolina and Ole Miss games were sold. The six sellouts before the calendar rolled over represented the most in program history.
• Georgia drew 9,018 fans for the season opener against Savannah State, UGA’s biggest crowd for a home opener in 37 seasons...since Dominique Wilkins’ sophomore year in Athens in 1981-82.
• The UMass game on Dec. 30 also sold out, giving Georgia a minimum of seven sellouts this season. That represents the Bulldogs’ most sellouts since having a school-record nine in 2002-03.

It should be noted that 2,000 free seats for UGA students must be filled for those “sellouts” to have capacity crowds of 10,523.


Stegeman Nearly Full Regularly
The confines of Stegeman Coliseum have been increasingly crowded this season.

Georgia’s overall attendance average of 9,038 fans in the 10,523-seat venue equates to it being 85.8 percent full over 14 home contests, which ranks No. 5 in the SEC.

The Bulldogs have drawn an average of 10,021 fans for their SEC games to date, meaning Stegeman has been 95.2 percent full for those six games. That ranks No. 3 in the league behind only Florida (97.5 percent) and Kentucky (97.4).


Welcome To The League, Coach
Tom Crean’s initiation into the SEC would probably be considered hazing by some.

Georgia began league play with back-to-back Saturday trips to the defending league co-champs and six straight outings against teams ranked in the top-50 of the new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings.

In the Jan. 5 edition of the NET, the Bulldogs’ first half-dozen SEC foes, in succession, were ranked as No. 7 Tennessee, No. 45 Vanderbilt, No. 18 Auburn, No. 10 Kentucky, No. 33 Florida and No. 27 LSU.

On Jan. 27 (when all 14 league teams had played six SEC games), the NET listed UGA’s first six opponents as No. 6 Tennessee, No. 93 Vanderbilt, No. 27 Auburn, No. 7 Kentucky, No. 37 Florida and No. 16 LSU.

The Bulldogs’ opponents over their first six SEC contests averaged a NET ranking of 31.0, far and away the most difficult in the league. The next closest was 42.0 for Alabama.


It’s Dogs vs. Dogs At Stegeman
The Georgia Bulldogs will host the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Wednesday evening at Stegeman Coliseum. The contest will be Georgia’s first weeknight home game in 51 days, since the Bulldogs hosted No. 12 Kentucky on Jan. 15.

Georgia is now 10-15 overall and 1-11 in the league to date. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs pushed No. 19/21 LSU to the brink before falling 83-79. Georgia led by as many as five points midway through the second half before the Tigers rallied to improve to 11-1 in the SEC.

Multi-dimensional Nicolas Claxton has been a “do-it-all” contributor for the Bulldogs. He is one of only five Division I players leading his team in all five major statistical categories – scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals. Claxton not only tops Georgia, he also paces the SEC in both rebounding (9.0 rpg) and blocks (2.6 bpg).

Rayshaun Hammonds, Tyree Crump and Derek Ogbeide also are scoring at a double-digit pace for the Bulldogs. Hammonds, who has a team-high 18 double-figure performances, is averaging 12.4 ppg, while Crump and Ogbeide both are chipping in 10.0 ppg.

Mississippi State arrives in Athens at 18-7 overall and 6-6 in SEC play.

Quinndary Weatherspoon paces an extremely balanced offensive attack for State by averaging 18.1 ppg. Lamar Peters and Aric Holman contribute 12.5 ppg and 10.0 ppg, respectively, while three other Bulldogs average between 9.0-9.6 ppg.


Series History With State
Georgia currently leads its all-time series with Mississippi State, 58-54, including a 29-19 advantage in games played in Athens.

In Mississippi State‘s last visit to Stegeman Coliseum two seasons ago on Valentine‘s Day in 2017, Yante Maten poured in 24 points to lead Georgia en route to a 79-72 victory.

The outing marked Maten‘s 10th 20-point game of the season. J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker added 17 and 16 points, respectively, for Georgia. 
 
The game was notched at 54-54 before the hometown Bulldogs scored eight unanswered points. State responded with a 3-pointer, but Georgia fired back with a Maten layup and an alley-opp from Frazier to Mike Edwards to give Georgia a nine-point lead, 66-57, with a little over three minutes to play.

Last season on Feb. 3 in Starkville, Mississippi State started quickly and never looked back en route to a 72-57 win over Georgia.

State opened the game with a 7-1 run. That margin reached double digits midway through the first half, and State answered every Georgia spurt.

A Tyree Crump 3-pointer at the 5:33 mark pulled the Bulldogs within 63-52; however, State closed out the rest of the contest on a 9-5 spurt.

Crump and Yante Maten led Georgia with 13 points apiece, while Pape Diatta added 12 of the bench on 4-of-4 3-point shooting.
 

Last Time Out...
Nicolas Claxton led four Bulldogs in double figures, but No. 19/21 LSU stilled downed Georgia 83-79 at a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum last Saturday.

LSU used a 10-0 run to gain the game’s first substantial lead at 31-22 with 5:17 remaining in the first half.

The Bulldogs cut that margin to 41-37 at the break and then knotted the score at 45-45 on a Rayshaun Hammonds 3-pointer with 18:12 left on the clock.

Georgia eventually built a 58-53 edge following a 3-pointer from E’Torrion Wilridge at the 13:54 mark.

LSU took the lead for good with 6:41 remaining; however, Georgia pulled within 82-79 with 53 seconds left following a pair of Derek Ogbeide free throws.

Following a stop, the Bulldogs gained possession with 36 seconds remaining but failed to capitalize.


Claxton In Rare Air Statistically
Nicolas Claxton entered this week as one of only five Division-I players who is leading his team in all five major stats – points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

Claxton has led the Bulldogs in four of the aforementioned categories – everything but scoring – for virtually the entire season. Rayshaun Hammonds has been Georgia’s leading scorer for the most part; however, Claxton inched by him with his 18-point performance at Texas A&M on Tuesday.

The other four D-I hoopsters to pace their team in those five stats as of Monday were Matt Rafferty of Furman, Sandy Cohen III of Green Bay, Andrew Kostecka of Loyola (Md.) and Justin James of Wyoming.


Harrison Earns First Career start
Redshirt senior Christian Harrison secured the first start of his collegiate career against LSU. Harrison, an Atlanta native who played at Woodward Academy, was a scholarship player for two seasons at Troy before transferring to Georgia as a walk-on.

After sitting out the 2016-17 campaign, Harrison saw action in two games last season. He began this season on the Bulldogs‘ scout team before earning meaningful minutes in the Oakland game on Dec. 18. Harrison was then was a key defensive contributor in the second half at Georgia Tech on Dec. 22. 

Harrison is now a relative regular in the Bulldogs‘ rotation, seeing time in 13 of the last 16 contests. He even started the second halves at both Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Against LSU, Harrison logged a career-high 19 minutes, six more than his previous high as a freshman at Troy. His solid linescore included two points on a nifty reverse layup, two rebounds, two steals, an assist and a blocked shot. Harrison spent a good portion of the second half guarding Tremont Waters.

Nicolas Claxton sang Harrison‘s praises following the LSU game.

“I just want to tip my hat off to Christian,“ Claxton said, unprompted by the media. “He came here and last year didn‘t play at all. This year, his minutes have been kind of up and down. But, throughout all of that, he has just stayed persistent. He just kept grinding. He comes in every day, and he doesn‘t complain. He just comes in and works hard, and you see the results today.“ 


Ogbeide Steps Up In SEC Play
Derek Ogbeide is averaging 10.8 points and shooting a team-best 61.5 percent from the field in SEC games. That’s a significant jump from his efforts of 9.2 ppg and 49.0 percent in non-conference action.

Ogbeide would rank second in the SEC in field goal percentage among statistical leaders for league game only; however, he is four FGs made shy of the minimum to qualify.


Turtle, Tyree And the “3”
Although the above headline sounds like the title to a children’s book, it’s actually in reference to the standing of Turtle Jackson and Tyree Crump among Georgia’s career leaders in 3-point field goals.

Jackson and Crump both joined the Bulldogs’ top-20 all-time for successful shots from behind this arc. 

As a matter of fact, the teammates entered the Ole Miss and Texas A&M games tied at No. 18. Crump inched ahead of Jackson in College Station, but Jackson knotted their numbers again during last Saturday’s game against LSU and they are now co-No. 17s.

 

 

Head Coach Tom Crean
 
Opening statement
“It’s never easy, and it doesn’t get any less challenging with Mississippi State coming in. They’re playing really well. They’re outstanding defensively. Their physicality, speed, and quickness of their guards on the defensive end create a lot of problems. They’re very good with the ball, and probably as good of a group of guards in the ball screen in the league. They’re in that conversation at least. They’re aggressive , they defend, they give great help to one another. You can see the defensive togetherness they have. They’re really good in transition. They can be a blur at times when they get the ball up the court. When you got multiple ball-handlers, multiple decision makers like that, it makes it a real challenge. The biggest thing for us is we got to make sure we are guarding that paint even more than what we have been doing. It’s a huge emphasis because when they get in the paint, they not only create at the rim, but they do a great job of kicking out to three point shooters. Coach Howland has done a fantastic job there. I have not competed against him since he was at Pittsburgh and I was at Marquette in 2003 Sweet Sixteen in Minneapolis. We had a great battle on a Thursday night in the old Metrodome. I have a ton of respect for him. I’ve gotten to know him better and better, but I’ve always had huge respect for him even going back to when he was head coach at Northern Arizona. He is one of the outstanding coaches in the game. We both lived some similar environments with what he did at UCLA and me at Indiana. He was able to be in that type of environment and win at a very high level. There’s no question that they play with his personality of toughness, tenacity, aggressiveness, and if anything, they’re playing faster than any of his teams I can remember. It is going to be a tremendous battle. We’re looking forward to it. It’s a Wednesday night game, and we haven’t had one of those in a long time. We’re looking forward to a great crowd. We need our students and people here. It’s a 6:30 start, so hopefully we’ll get the kind of crowd we need to compete in this game.
 
On SEC Basketball in general...
“That question has been coming up a lot this week. Here’s how I would judge it: The margin for error is slim for everybody. The teams are so good that if you make a mistake, if you make a defensive mistake, this league, more often than not, makes you pay for it. It’s not like you make a mistake, and they miss, or they don’t see it. They capitalize on it. That’s a sign of excellent coaching and really good players. There’s depth in this league. I’ve never been in a league that combines this level of speed with rebounding. I’ve been in some situations where people have been more half-court oriented, and they’re really good rebounding teams. I’ve been in good rebounding leagues, but none like this, top to bottom. It just shows the ability that so many people have. Another thing that is a separator of this league, in my opinion, is the number of guys that can get their own shot. Whether they’re in the front-court or back-court, it is amazing. There are so few places where you think you can catch a break against somebody. You have to be so concerned about how many guys with the ball can go create a shot. In turn, it creates offensive rebounding opportunities and kickouts. You have to be so locked in to every possession, and those are some of the reasons that make this such a great league.”
 
On guarding Peters and Witherspoon…
“We can’t get extended. They want you to chase them around the court because they’re so good and so quick. Lamar Peters is so lethal going from his left to his right on a crossover. Quadree Witherspoon, Tyson Carter, and Nick Witherspoon are all really good with the ball and they can make shots. There’s a lot of multi-faceted players in this league, and Mississippi State has as many as anybody. They’re guys can do so many different things. We also have to be really cognisant in transition and when shots go up to make sure we’re getting five guys in the painted area for rebounding.”
 

 
On Recruiting Cycle…
“We’re looking for versatility and skill. We want to get year-round winners. They not only win in high-school, but they also win in the AAU. If they didn’t win, in a certain environment, why? It’s the same thing with multiple sport players. If they bring that competitive nature and that grit to it, it’s such a huge thing. Again for us, we want to really address upside. Not only where are they today, but where are they going to be. Looking as much as we can for people who have the high level of competitiveness and awareness and that want to be great. If you want to be great, we’re not going to have trouble with you making sure that you’re getting to class on time. Or that you’re getting your work done in study hall. Or that you’re putting your best effort into a class. We’re not going to have to worry about your social life. If you want to be great, you’re going to get over the distractions that get inside of you real quick. I think that’s really important as we move forward in recruiting. You want people that understand that if I’m going to be really good at basketball and have this passion for it, I’ve got to be really strong in every other area of my life. That’s what we’re really trying to judge and work on and learn about and get a real feel on in our recruiting.
 
On making the extra pass…
“I think making the extra pass and moving without the ball has improved this season. There’s still times when the pressure comes and we struggle with that. We try to tell them don’t drive into a crowd to make a play, draw a crowd and make a pass. That’s something that Mississippi State is tremendous at. That’s what you want out of your back-court. That’s also what you want out of your front-court with how many bigger guys are handling the ball for us.”
 
On how much he looks at assists…
“I don’t. I don’t look at assists as much, because we are going to drive the ball a lot. I really don’t. It is an important stat if you really are making threes. For me, it is the movement, the cutting without the ball, it’s the ability to make a play. I have had teams that I do judge it [assists] on that were good at shooting the ball and their spacing was good, so you wanted to drive it into the paint and kick. Right now though, we are trying to find ways to score. We are trying to cut, score, space, get to the rim, and we have to have a multitude of ways to do it, because we are not as good to be able to create our own shot without it being a tough shot. That is something that we try to work on consistently. Again, I’m more interested in us making the next pass then if that shot necessarily goes in.”
 
On practices this week…
“We didn’t practice Sunday, but it was outstanding yesterday. It was absolutely outstanding. We have had very good practices, but yesterday was high-level competitiveness. We won’t do nearly as much today. It has been good. When they start to realize that they can bring that more consistently. Because that has been the measure of our team with the exception of Texas A&M game, I don’t think we were aggressive in that game. The zone slowed us down a bit and we weren’t aggressive. Then there were times at Ole Miss and South Carolina where we got our head down, especially Ole Miss. Otherwise it has just been a few things that have tripped us up. I know the score has not always agreed with that, but that is really what it has been. The bottom line for us is when we play and understand that even when it is not going well, if we stay consistent with our spirit and talk on defense, which has been an issue, stay consistent with our rebounding and moving the ball, then good things will happen to us. Sometimes we get down and confidence doesn’t carry over like it should, but the other day we just fell a little short at the end.”
 
On strength training schedule…
“They’ll do that after practice today, because it is a little bit earlier of a day and we really have to work times around class schedules, especially for the seniors right now. We’ll lift after practice today. Certainly we work on strength and conditioning at practice, but there has been a component of that throughout the season.”
 
On performance in the weight room…
“This time of the year it is a lot more about getting in there and getting your job done. You are working and trying to get stronger. It is not as much competition in the weight room. It isn’t about maxing out or anything like that. I’m not unhappy about it [weight room progress]. Whatever you do no matter what you are doing, you have to be all in on it. You have to understand the value of it. When we say, ‘everything matters’, in the weight room or where ever for whether it is 30 minutes or longer or shorter, you have to put your best in it. This time of year we aren’t trying to wear people out in that area. We are just trying to get stronger and maintain our strength.”
 
On focus of getting strength and weight on Nicolas Claxton…
“Absolutely, that is nutrition. It’s part of it. It is not just Nic [Claxton]. We have everything possible here, you guys cover football. We have everything you want nutrition-wise, hydration-wise, all those types of ways. You have to carry it out. What you eat, what you drink, etc. I’ll look out my window sometimes and I’ll see Nic [Claxton] carrying that jug of water with him. I’ll send pictures of any of my former guys that are getting on an airplane or walking into an arena with a water jug – it works. You have to keep putting that on and replenishing, but not everyone understands that. There’s times in the past I’ve gone through the locker room and thrown out jugs that weren’t used. It all matters. When building a program no matter how you want it to be, because all programs are different – you have to make sure you are doing everything you can to make sure those standards are met and some guys don’t understand that, but that is when education process keeps coming. That also is when real competition inside of a team. They understand that they have to be on top of this and if I’m not on top of this I’m not going to play as much, and If I’m not on top of this then I can lose some minutes. We don’t necessarily have that. We have a lot of guys. We don’t have that all-out full throttle competition for minutes every day. Some of that plays into it when you’re building  a program. That is a 365 day year a thing though. Nutrition, hydration, strength and how you gain weight is a big part of that and it takes 365 days. It goes for the same thing for people trying to lose weight.”
 
On strictness of nutrition choices…
“Strict is a tough word, because we aren’t with them [team] 24/7. I go to Chick-Fil-a, and I’m not stopping them for going either. What you want them to understand is the value of what they are doing. What they put into their body when, a lot of the times. You can be mad at everything if you want to be and find something to poke at every time, but that is not how you coach and make people better. You try to coach them and educate them to make them better. Then hopefully the light bulb goes on and they realize this really matters. In these power schools like Georgia, everything is here for them to succeed, but you have to take advantage of it. That comes down to the individual. I’ve never sat someone down, because they don’t drink enough water, but they have lost time because their body didn’t keep up with it compared to someone else. That is part of it.”
 
On growth of Tye Fagen…
“I think Tye [Fagen] is a great example of someone that is bringing his practice game more to the court. He is playing faster and better defensively. There is times in practice he is really good at that, and now he has shown some more at games. But going out and really playing with confidence defensively. If you miss a shot, your confidence drops a litte, or make a turnover, your confidence drops, but it can’t drop on defense. It can’t drop on defense or on the glass. For him it is about to continue to develop and be that swiss army knife that can find different ways to get to the rim, create layups, drive, cut, play faster, better decisions with the ball and continue to understand what he can be defensively.”
 
On growth of Ignas Sarguinas…
“Ignas [Sarguinas], needs to play faster. He needs to be more consistent shooter, but he needs to play faster. I think defensively is a big situation as well, being about to get down and guard the ball, but that is part of it. Playing with a good first step, coming off the ball screen and attacking, and looking to make a play. What happens with young guys is that they get tentative. But we have to get quicker and faster in those places. Some of it is athletic training, some of it is strength training, but also some of it is mindset. But, playing faster without turnovers. Those are the bigger things.”
 

 
Senior Guard William “Turtle” Jackson
 
On how often you look at assists as a barometer when evaluating offensive performance… 
“I think assists are a very big thing it shows that we are playing together as a team as well as getting others involved. Assists are a very big part of winning games and trying to improve offense.” 
 
On if you, as guards, feel responsibility to be the distributors… 
“Personally I feel like it plays a big role into it because I am so used to playing the point guard position. Passing and always getting others the ball is always on my mind.” 
 
On if you feel more comfortable if all the distributing responsibility isn’t on you… 
“Most definitely. It takes a lot of pressure off of you not always having to worry about bringing the ball up and getting everyone organized. It is nice to know that whoever brings the ball up can do the job of getting everyone together and organizing the team at this point.” 
 
On what you need to do to improve the number of assists per game… 
“Coach always talks about making that extra pass and not always shooting the first shot that looks somewhat open and trying to get others involved.” 
 
On if you rely on Claxton more or the same as Yante Maten last year… 
“That is a great question. Yante is a great player and Claxton is a great player. When you play on a team with great players you allow them to do what they do. He keeps improving and the sky is the limit for him.” 
 
On how impressed you have been with Claxton’s level of play… 
“I always knew he had it in him from his first couple of days on campus. You can tell who has it. He is versatile, he is a seven-footer who can shoot, dribble, pass and play defense. That is an all-around player.” 
 
On if there was a point or game where the attendance and the atmosphere felt a little different than last year… 
“I feel like Stegmania was a big part of it. Doing that and getting everyone together before the season was a great opportunity for us to get ready for the season. The fans showed up and have been doing that ever since.” 
 
On if you or anyone else sees a sports psychologist… 
“I have. I am not sure about everyone else, but I have before. When I had surgery it was nice to have someone to talk to and just to communicate with. I think it is a great part of the game because a very high percentage of basketball is mental. If you are doing much better and feel more comfortable talking to someone or getting certain things off your chest then that is great. I talked to the sports psychologist my sophomore and junior year and we basically just talked about life and everything going on. Just taking her advice and learning from someone who does that for a living is great.” 

 
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