January 22, 2010

Bench play could be key against UT

Thirty-three and 35 times three.

That's been the average minutes for four of Georgia's five starters during the Bulldogs' last four games, a number head coach Mark Fox hopes to eventually see change, although that won't likely be the case Saturday afternoon against No. 8 Tennessee.

Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum (FSN South).

"Our first group (Trey Thompkins, Ricky McPhee, Dustin Ware and Travis Leslie) has played an average of 34-35 minutes per game the last four, and in physical contests like we've been having, that's a little much," Fox said Friday afternoon. "But that's been the result of the fact that they have kept us in games that we are trying to win. Our bench is still very, very young, and right now that's a little bit of a hindrance for us."

It's certainly been an issue.

Albert Jackson and Jeremy Price have essentially been splitting time in the post alongside Thompkins, but in the backcourt, the trio of Ebuka Anyaorah, Vincent Williams and DeMario Mayfield have only have averaged about five minutes of play during that exact period of time.

Fox said the wear and tear is starting to show, although he hopes the week off between games will benefit his Bulldogs (8-8, 0-3) Saturday against the Vols (15-2, 3-0).

"This week we tried to get their legs back under them," Fox said. "The wear and tear have gotten them a little bit, and that's why we've been trying to develop those players on the bench and help them become more effective players so we can get some production off the bench. That's very important to us."

With a little more help, Georgia's fortunes could conceivably turn around.

After losing 13 SEC games last year by an average of approximately 16 points per game, the Bulldogs losing margin in their three losses to Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State has been a smidge under five.

"They have improved a great deal, but in a way because the games have been closer it's made it more painful," Fox said. "But we do reward them for playing the right way and I'm proud of the way they've competed, but at the same time we need to drive them to make another couple of steps for us to be success and I think we can. That's kind of our pursuit right now."

But getting past the Vols won't be easy.

Tennessee comes into Saturday's contest on an 7-game winning streak, a run that includes a victory over previously No. 1-ranked Kansas.

The Vols lead the SEC in turnover margin (+6.4, third nationally)and tops the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 60 points per game plus a league-best field goal percentage defense of .343.

Tennessee is led by senior forward Wayne Chism who is averaging 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. In six career games against Georgia, Chism is averaging 10 points and six boards per contest.

"This is an exception defensive team and I think that part of their game gets overlooked," Fox said. "Chism is a great player, but they've obviously got some players on the perimeter that are more than a handful. As with any good club, they have enough strengths where we can't be concerned about just one thing."

No. 8 Tennessee at Georgia

WHERE: Stegeman Coliseum

WHEN: Saturday, 5 p.m.

RECORDS: Georgia 8-8, 0-3; Tennessee 15-2, 3-0

TV: FSN South

RADIO: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network

NEXT GAME: Jan. 27, at Florida

NOTES: Tennessee has won 10 straight meetings over Georgia, including five regular-season sweeps against the Bulldogs who last beat the Vols on Feb. 21, 2004 in Athens. … A couple of trends perhaps through the Bulldogs' first three SEC games: 1) Georgia has outrebounded all three opponents, so much that the Bulldogs lead the league in rebounding margin in those games. 2) Despite league-high turnovers, Georgia is improving its offensive per¬formance as the season progresses. The Dogs' per-game scoring average through three SEC games (71 ppg) is actually 4.4 points higher than their overall average. That's a rarity indeed; not since 2001 has a Georgia team's final SEC-games average been higher than its final overall scoring average.

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