Georgia seeks strong end to ‘a good year’

semerson@macon.comMarch 7, 2014 

ATHENS, Ga. -- There are no valedictory statements being uttered yet by members of the Georgia men’s basketball team. No public scolding to those who picked the team to finish 11th in the SEC, even though it will finish third. No lashing out at those who discounted the Bulldogs after their weak non-conference season.

And that seems wise, given what still awaits.

“It’s been a good year,” junior forward Nemanja Djurisic said. “But it’s, of course, still an uncompleted season.”

The regular season part gets completed Saturday at LSU, in what will be a challenging game for Georgia, as well as a pivotal one.

Next week brings the SEC tournament. Georgia (17-12, 11-6 SEC) controls its own destiny as far as the third seed, which would bring the coveted double-bye into Friday’s quarterfinals. A win Saturday gives Georgia the No. 3 seed.

But if Georgia loses, it will need help. Arkansas and Tennessee are each a game behind the Bulldogs and own the tiebreaker: Tennessee via the one head-to-head matchup and Arkansas via the second tiebreaker, a win over second-place Kentucky.

So if Georgia loses Saturday and Arkansas and Tennessee both win, then the Bulldogs would fall to the No. 5 seed and have to play Thursday in Atlanta.

If Georgia loses but Arkansas or Tennessee lose (but not both), the Bulldogs would be the No. 4 seed and still get the double-bye into Friday. Of course the downside with that is Georgia would be on No. 1 Florida’s side of the bracket. So getting that No. 3 seed remains of paramount importance.

But head coach Mark Fox claimed he has “not one time” mentioned the double-bye to his team.

“I’m really not that caught up with it, to be honest with you,” Fox said. “You certainly would like to have to win three games in the SEC tournament and not four. But we’re just worried about playing well. And if we just play well and give ourselves a chance to win, then that other stuff will take care of itself.”

The Bulldogs also still have a chance to finish in a tie for second, although not the second seed in the tournament. They are one game behind Kentucky, which has to play at Florida. Kentucky would still be the second seed, via its win over Georgia, but it would still be a nice thing for the Bulldogs to say they finished in second place.

“We always believed we could be here,” junior forward Marcus Thornton said. “So it’s not really a surprise to us. But it’s great to see the fruits of our labor, so to speak. We still have work to do.”

Georgia has seven SEC wins by double digits, and one of those is over LSU, 91-78 on Feb. 6. But the Tigers still have a dangerous team, as they showed by nearly winning at Kentucky a couple of weeks ago.

And in Georgia’s victory over LSU, the Tigers’ top player, Johnny O’Bryant, wasn’t on the floor very much because of foul trouble.

“That helped a lot,” Thornton said. “Obviously Johnny O’Bryant is special and a great player.”

This and that

A few other notes on Georgia’s season:

• This is only the 10th season, out of 81, that Georgia has won 10 at least SEC games. And while the schedule has expanded to 18 games, this year’s 10th win came in game No. 16.

• This is the first time since 1997 that Georgia won two road games by double digits: by 20 at Mississippi State and by 17 at South Carolina.

• During the past six games, Kenny Gaines is 23-for-44 from 3-point range.

• But Georgia is a much less perimeter-oriented team this season, after the departure of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Last year, 30 percent of the Bulldogs’ field goals were 3-pointers. This year, that number is down to 21 percent. Last year Georgia, averaged 22 points in the paint. This year, it’s averaging 32 points.

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