A couple of weeks ago, the Kentucky Wildcats headed down to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs, and they found themselves facing a tough, physical team that had plugged a few holes from last year. The biggest hole they filled was with the addition of Gerald Robinson Jr., a transfer from the Tennessee St. Tigers who has made an immediate impact for the Dawgs.
Robinson is a small guard for the 2 spot, but he gets the job done by putting constant pressure on the defense with slashes to the rim. His stats don't seem that intimidating until you notice that he gets used a lot -- in fact, Robinson is second only to Howard Trey Thompkins in possessions used. That means that Robinson ends more possessions, either by a basket, missed shot, turnover, or free throws than anyone other than Georgia's big Dawg.
Robinson is the kind of player you would categorize as a slasher. He's a good but not great 3-point shooter at 37 percent (but that is arguably pretty fine for Georgia) and shoots 50% from the field overall. Against Kentucky in Athens, Robinson was responsible for 30% of the scoring from the free throw line. Robinson is a very big cog in this Georgia offense, even though his statistics don't scream for attention like Thompkins or Travis Leslie's numbers do.
Like running mate Dustin Ware, Robinson likes to share the basketball, and leads the team in assists with over four per game from the off-guard spot. With both Ware and Robinson in the game, Georgia has a similar sort of set up to what Kentucky had last year with John Wall and Eric Bledsoe in the back court -- two point-guard types who have a plethora of big bodies to get the ball to inside. That's why Georgia's offense has become so efficient -- they have two perimeter players who are very good at getting the ball in to the post, and can take their man off the dribble in late clock situations.
More after the jump.
Kentucky has to find a way to do a better job on Saturday forcing these two guys to either give up the ball before they want to, or force them to try to shoot a bunch of perimeter shots. Down in Athens, the Wildcats did a very poor job of denying the wing pass, which allowed Thompkins to get a lot of good, deep post position on Kentucky's front line. Kentucky has to find a way to minimize that or risk foul trouble for their big people again.
Robinson is as quick and athletic as any player in Kentucky's back court, and he really hurt the Wildcats getting to the rim down in Athens. Robinson had 17 points, nine of them from the line, and was the difference-maker for the Dawgs. Kentucky will need to find an answer for him, and even though Travis Leslie might be the most athletic player on Georgia's team, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see DeAndre Liggins given the task of handling Robinson this time.
If Robinson has a weakness, it's turnovers. Just as he leads the Dawgs in dimes, he also leads them in miscues, averaging over 3 turnovers per game. Putting pressure on him should force him to cough it up more, and if Kentucky can continue the defensive intensity they showed at South Carolina, that seems like a real possibility.
Because he ends so many possessions, its a sign that the Dawgs are primarily running the offense through him rather than Ware, and I think Kentucky paid more attention to Ware down in Georgia. That might have been a tactical error with 20/20 hindsight.
Don't expect Calilpari to make that mistake again.