ATHENS -- It was only one game, against a weaker opponent, and by no means a clear sign that Georgia will have a much better men’s basketball team this year.
But there’s no doubt it was a much better start.
Georgia opened its season Friday night in fairly impressive fashion, blowing out visiting Wofford 72-52. In so doing, right away the Bulldogs exceeded the margin of victory for any of their wins last year.
Last year Georgia’s biggest win was by 16 points, and only three wins were by more than 10. The result was a 15-17 record and a miserable 2-7 start, including some embarrassing home losses.
There was no repeat in this year’s season opener, with Georgia leading by as many as 25, in what it hopes sets a tone for the new season.
“Last year we might have come out a little slower,” sophomore guard Kenny Gaines said. “We just wanna keep coming out and playing like we did (Friday).”
And the Bulldogs did it without Brandon Morris, a starter last year who was suspended for the game by head coach Mark Fox. Georgia’s next game is Friday against Georgia Tech, and Fox would not say when Morris would return.
“He’s a good kid. We’ve gotta grow,” Fox said. “So I don’t know. I really don’t.”
It was actually a somewhat lackluster start and finish to the game for the Bulldogs. But in the middle half of the game they outscored Wofford 30-7, sparked then by the play of sophomores Gaines and Charles Mann.
Overall, the scoring was distributed well. The star of the game was up for debate between a host of players, including Gaines (10 points and six rebounds), Nemanaja Djurisic (12 points and seven rebounds) and Donte Williams (11 points and nine rebounds). Newcomer Cameron Forte, a sophomore transfer, also injected some late scoring and finished with nine points.
“That’s something that’s going to be normal this year,” Williams said. “Whoever’s hot that night, we’re gonna give them the ball. We’re going to use that to our advantage. People won’t focus on one person.”
Players seemingly unafraid to take shots, rather than looking to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who, of course, is no longer around to carry the team.
In fact afterwards, when asked who led the team in scoring, Williams answered, “I have no idea.”
Last year there would have been no question.
“It just allows more options to people. More people have to contribute,” Gaines said. “So we pride ourselves in each person having a decent opportunity to have a look at the basket.”
“We just know that we have to put everyone out there and try to score as much as we can, and get the scoring from everyone,” Djurisic said. “We have more freedom now to shoot. We know other guys have to step up.”