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Hoop Dogs at a crossroads following losing streak
Georgia has lost eight straight heading into Tuesday night’s game against Alabama.
The Bulldogs (5-14, 0-6) have been struggling as of late, and their schedule won’t get any easier moving forward, which starts with the matchup against the Crimson Tide (13-6, 4-3).
There has been a lot of outside noise and criticism of Georgia head coach Tom Crean, especially after the loss to South Carolina this past weekend.
“I really don’t hear it, but I’m sure it’s there,” Crean explained on Monday. “To be completely honest with you, I don’t hear it, whether it’s social media, or those types of things. It's not my first time down that road in the coaching life and you learn from [past] experiences. My focus is completely centered on the team and how we can get better to prepare for these games. That's the most important thing. I learned that a while back and I have no intention of changing it."
The Bulldogs were leading by seven points with just under eight minutes remaining on Saturday, but the Gamecocks went on a 24-0 run. That proved to be the difference as the Bulldogs were handed their eighth straight loss, which was by double-digits following that dominant run by South Carolina. It was a game that brought out the boo-birds from the fan base.
Junior guard Jaxon Etter admitted that he has heard the disapproval from the Bulldog faithful.
“You know, a team of our caliber should have outside noise,” Etter said. “It would be a bad thing if we didn’t have the outside noise. That is my view on it. The way Coach [Tom] Crean talks about removing distractions from the game and not paying attention to social media, it kind of helps relieve the pressure. There is always pressure on us to win and there is obviously not as much of that going on as we would like.”
Etter embraces the situation and hopes tomorrow night’s result can be in Georgia’s favor.
“The pressure is there,” he said. “We just have to get the job done.”
Etter said the Bulldogs want to perform their best, especially against a quality team like Alabama.
“There is not a quantifiable measure for how bad this team wants to win,” Etter explained. “We play harder than any team I have ever seen, the guys compete every single day, we practice hard every single day…We want to win it, it’s just we have five-to-six stretches where it falls apart. That is what we have to get figured out. Yesterday in practice, we had a little stretch of where we were falling apart and that is when guys had to get together and fix it like this is what is happening in the games. Locate the issue and solve it. But I can’t quantify how much we want to win because it is high up there. “
Alabama is riding a two-game winning streak entering Tuesday’s matchup with quality wins over LSU and Missouri. The Crimson Tide are led by Jaden Shackelford, who is one of the best shooters in the SEC. Currently, he’s averaging 16.9 points per game.
Etter acknowledged how talented Shackleford is, especially from beyond the 3-point line.
“That is a huge game plan for us, to limit his touches in general,” Etter said. “The dude is an elite scorer. Not all-out denying him, but not giving him any help in the corners because if he gets any space, he doesn’t even need space to shoot the ball and to shoot the ball efficiently. He is a knockdown shooter, there is a reason he is projected to go very high [in the draft]. He is a problem. He is a big factor that we will have to care of. But they have elite-level guys one through five. It is going to be a tough task to run them off the line and make sure that they don’t make as many 3-pointers as they want to.”
Crean explained that a win over Alabama would lift Georgia’s spirits immensely.
“That's why we try to show these guys if somebody beats us, great,” Crean said. “You take your hat off to them, the old corny saying. When you lose the game, you have to make sure they see that as well. I think with a team like ours, they also have to see how close they are. They have to see how close things are to going right and then what happens when they start going wrong. It's not going to be one or two people that lead the way. There has to be a collective leadership, and it has to come in the form of five men together on defense, five men working together on offense with a lot of movement. Something good happens.”
Crean doesn’t believe that the season is over, despite what some on social media are saying.
“There’s still two-thirds of the conference season left,” Crean said. “There's a lot of basketball left to be played, and the bottom line is, we are closer in a lot of areas than it may appear. They [the players] have to understand that. We have to quit having ‘Groundhog Day’ as soon as something goes wrong for us. That's what we have to grow through.”