Georgia turned focus to Kentucky right away

semerson@macon.comMarch 15, 2014 

ATLANTA - Georgia head coach Mark Fox walked into his team's locker room in the early minutes of Saturday, looked around, and began yelling.

"C'mon, let's go. We got a game in 13 hours!"

It was actually more like 15 hours, but Fox's point got through. The room soon cleared, as Georgia got what rest it could before what should be one of its stiffest challenges of the year.

Kentucky is unranked now, but on Jan. 25 it delivered Georgia's worst loss of the season, at least in terms of margin of victory, 79-54 at Rupp Arena.

In fact Georgia's worst three losses of the season came to the other three remaining teams in the SEC tournament. So if the Bulldogs somehow are the final team standing at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, it will be quite an accomplishment.

Georgia was actually within striking distance of Kentucky early in the second half, before the Wildcats ran away with it. And as Fox and his players pointed out on Saturday morning, they lost that game without two of their players, including one of the key ones.

Starting guard Kenny Gaines missed the game with a thigh bruise, and his top backup Juwan Parker also missed the game with an injury. The injuries probably weren't worth 25 points, but the Bulldogs sounded sure Gaines and Parker would have made it a different game.

"We weren't healthy, so it was hard," said point guard Charles Mann, who is Georgia's leading scorer. "They kind of wore me down. I was pretty much the only guard, really. It's gonna be a different game tomorrow. We've just gotta come ready to play."

Fox put it another way.

"We just glued the team together up there," he said.

Marcus Thornton, normally a post player, started the game at shooting guard, according to Fox.

"We had to sit in a zone and ran about two or three different things, because that's all we could glue together with the injuries," Fox said. "So we'll have more options available. So we'll have to play terrific in order to have a chance to win."

Technically Georgia also gets to play this game on a neutral-site floor - in fact in its own state. But Kentucky's fans are expected to dominate the arena, as usual.

Fox was asked Saturday morning about trying to "keep it a neutral atmosphere." He smiled and hesitated a second.

"I'm gonna wear a blue tie," Fox said, clearly kidding. "It shouldn't be a neutral atmosphere. It should be two teams and two fan bases fighting for their kids, and that's what college athletics is all about."

Mann acknowledged that Georgia will have to play better than it did against Ole Miss on Friday night - and better than it did on Jan. 25.

"We didn't have a full team back then," Mann said. "But now we have a full team, and hopefully the outcome will be different. It's going to be a hard-fought battle. It's not gonna be like it was last game."

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