There were a lot of reasons the Bulldogs lost, but the most tangible one was the 11 missed free throws in the eight-point defeat (13-of-24, 54.2%). Georgia isn’t the greatest free-throw shooting team in the SEC, but neither is it the worst.
The Bulldogs also were out-rebounded by an embarrassing 41-27 margin and missed 16 3-pointers, which was amplified even more while getting off six fewer overall shots than the Gators. There is much on which they can improve.
“We scored 84 and missed almost half of our free throws,” Crean said of lessons learned the first time. “We also need to get out and run better. … We learned that we need to follow our defensive game plan better. We weren’t nearly aggressive enough in the paint. We have to be a better rebounding team against them.”
Georgia believes it’s a different team than when it hosted the Gators a month ago. While there have been losses since then, there also have been significant conquests. The Bulldogs won three in a row to end January and start February, including a decisive vanquishing of Auburn on the road.
And the latest victory was particularly thorough. Georgia put together a sustained second-half run the likes of which it hasn’t shown all season. After falling behind by 13 five minutes into the second half, the Bulldogs outscored Missouri 45-22 over a 14-minute span to go ahead by 14 points.
It was an impressive display that included intense defense, athletic rebounding, skinned-knees hustle and refined shooting. That aggressive mindset is what the Bulldogs hope to carry into Florida’s O’Connell Center.
“We were more hungry for the win,” said sophomore forward Toumani Camara, who had 15 points and eight rebounds against Missouri. “We just attacked it way harder than we did in the first half, and that’s the way we should play every time. There should not be any question about it.”
Said Crean: “Our team’s resiliency keeps getting better. … Hopefully it manifests itself into something they carry with them throughout the season. When you stick with something and keep persevering, good things happen.”
Georgia must first do a better job on Florida guard Tre Mann, who scored 24 points in the first meeting. Also, the Gators had 16 offensive rebounds, including four each from Anthony Duruji and Omar Payne.
The Bulldogs have played seven games since that last meeting, while Florida has played four. The Gators lost 75-64 to No. 24 Arkansas on Tuesday, their first action following a 13-day hiatus because of COVID-19.
After Florida, the Bulldogs will face LSU for the second time this season. They lost to the Tigers in Baton Rouge 94-92 in overtime Jan. 6.
If there are any thoughts of the postseason extending beyond next month’s SEC Tournament in Nashville, Georgia’s going to have to wrestle down more of these Quadrant 1 opponents.
“I try to stay squarely in the present to help players the best,” Crean said.