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Georgia set for challenge of LSU's Ben Simmons

LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives past Arkansas forward Moses Kingsley (33) during an NCAA college basketball game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP) MAGS OUT; INTERNET OUT; NO SALES; TV OUT; NO FORNS; LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT (INCLUDING GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT, 225, 10/12, INREGISTER, LBI CUSTOM); MANDATORY CREDIT
LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives past Arkansas forward Moses Kingsley (33) during an NCAA college basketball game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP) MAGS OUT; INTERNET OUT; NO SALES; TV OUT; NO FORNS; LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT (INCLUDING GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT, 225, 10/12, INREGISTER, LBI CUSTOM); MANDATORY CREDIT AP

ATHENS -- In order to draw an apt comparison for LSU forward Ben Simmons, Georgia head coach Mark Fox had to go back more than 20 years, underscoring just how different the freshman is.

"He's a very unique player," Fox said. "I don't know if it's a once-of-a-couple generation player, but he reminds me of early in my career when we played Jason Kidd, and he just impacted the game so many different ways. That's what Ben Simmons does. He scores it, he rebounds it, he passes it, he does everything."

Simmons is in the top three in nearly every statistical category in the SEC, including field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists, points per game and even steals, despite his 6-foot-10 frame. His domination on the boards has him with 63 rebounds more than the next closest player and almost three rebounds more per game.

By almost any measure, Simmons is one of the most talented players that anyone on Georgia's roster has played against and is on par with the talent that Georgia saw against Kentucky last year, a team that nearly completed an undefeated season.

"There are some guys that are obviously going to be very successful at the next level, and he is certainly one of them," Fox said.

If Georgia wants to beat LSU, it's going to have to do its best to contain Simmons and not let him command the paint.

Because of the things that Simmons can do on the perimeter, Georgia might have to take advantage of the size of senior guard Charles Mann, who is above average for a guard at 6-foot-4, to take on Simmons some.

"Whoever's on him, me, the other couple guys, we're going to try to do what we do best and just try to maintain him and contain him a little bit," Mann said.

Ultimately, Georgia will have to find a way to match its big men up against him and limit his effectiveness in the paint offensively and on the boards on both ends of the court.

That might prove difficult for the Bulldogs, however, because of the inexperience of its frontcourt. Outside of junior Houston Kessler, Georgia's biggest contributors in the frontcourt have been sophomore Yante Maten and freshmen Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards.

Maten is the obvious choice to pair against Simmons, given the improvement in his game during the past year. Maten got some experience last year matching up against NBA first-round picks Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Caulie-Stein and said that he learned that the key is not to let his matchup control how he plays his game.

"I just play to my strengths," Maten said. "I don't really ever adjust my game to anyone else. I always play to what I know I can do and take it from there."

Maten will be able to help contain Simmons some, but Maten won't be able to do it alone, especially if he's going to also make his normal contributions on offense. At some point, if Georgia is to limit Simmons' effectiveness, Ogbeide and Edwards are going to have to do their part and help control the paint. That is especially important for the Bulldogs because they are undefeated when tying or winning the rebound battle.

"We fully anticipate that all of our freshmen, especially, will make mistakes," Fox said. "We have to play smarter basketball with that group. But in preparation, you've got to play intelligently so trying to educate, one of the challenges with the four freshmen, for instance, is every game they're seeing a defense or offensive scheme that they didn't even know existed a year ago. So it's hard to teach some of those guys or get them to absorb it in two days and really be able to play as you want."

Simmons is definitely unique. As Fox pointed out, he can't game plan for Simmons like another player because "there's nobody else like him."

That might be the case, but Georgia's players say they are ready to give him their best shot.

"I do like a challenge," Maten said. "You have to rise to the occasion sometimes."

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