While Jackson has taken a step forward no one has emerged behind him.
Turtle Jackson has taken a step forward in 2018 as Georgia’s point guard but the Bulldogs are still looking for some consistency behind him. Look no further than Sunday’s 66-61 loss at Rupp Arena as an example.
Mark Fox has used some combination of sophomore Tyree Crump and freshman TeShaun Hightower as primary backups for Jackson this season. Neither has worked out well for the Bulldogs.
Crump has appeared in 11 games so far averaging 14.4 minutes. Known for his shooting prowess, Crump has struggled so far this season shooting just 33 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range. He’s averaging 1.3 assists per game but also 1.4 turnovers.
Hightower hasn’t faired much better and is shooting just 30 percent from the field although most of his problems are coming from three-point range where he is just 1-for-13 on the season. He is shooting 45 percent from inside the arc and is averaging 1.3 assists and 1.1 turnovers.
Whenever Jackson has left the floor, Georgia’s offense has ground to a halt. That was again the case in Sunday’s 66-61 loss to Kentucky. The Bulldogs were leading 42-34 with just under 14 minutes remaining when Jackson was whistled for his fourth foul. As Jackson headed to the bench, the Wildcats immediately went on an 11-4 run to erase the lead. Fox was forced to reinsert Jackson but at that point the momentum was gone and so was a chance to pull off a huge road upset.
Fox talked about his team’s shot selection during that time while Jackson was on the bench in his postgame press conference. A lot of those attempts came at the end of the shot clock after the team wasn’t able to get into much of a set offensively.
This isn’t something that is lost on Fox either as he has been searching for answers all season. Crump scored 17 in the late November win over Saint Mary’s but has averaged about 10 minutes a game in five games since. He received a DNP in the win over Temple. He played 12 minutes against Kentucky finishing with four points, three assists and two turnovers while going 1-for-9 from the field.
Hightower scored seven points in 13 minutes against Winthrop but has played more than five minutes just once in the four games since. He went scoreless against Kentucky going 0-for-5 from the field with no assists and one turnover.
None of the three including Jackson are great defensive options either. The Bulldogs have been able to work around Jackson’s defensive shortcomings due to the rest of the starting unit being above average. However, it falls off once Fox goes to the bench.
Crump appears to be best suited for playing the off-guard spot where he would benefit from more catch-and-shoot situations. However, his defense also suffers and is relatively small for that position.
Hightower’s shooting isn’t there but he looks like he could develop into a quicker version of Jackson with a bit more defensive upside. His defensive numbers are the best of the three but are skewed a bit by less minutes.
It appears it is time to settle on a rotation and stick with it for a while as no one is benefitting from the constant shuffling. Hightower is the more pure point guard option but is a true freshman. Crump has some experience but feels miscast as a playmaker.
The problem for Georgia is that the SEC schedule won’t provide them an opportunity to experiment further. This was a question that would have been best answered during the non-conference but it simply hasn’t played itself out. The Bulldogs’ RPI is 58 after Sunday’s loss, the SEC is much improved and every game is critical from here on out.