ATHENS -- It was the kind of game that would have made the Georgia men’s basketball team feel very good about itself, if only it didn’t have a long memory.
Thirteen different players scored for Georgia, which throttled Chattanooga 87-56, the largest margin of victory for the Bulldogs in nearly three years. They scored their most points in a non-overtime game since the 2011-12 season, the last time they made the NCAA tournament.
The problem is Georgia still has a losing record this year, the product of its recent four-game losing streak.
This win over Chattanooga is the second in a row, part of a five-game home-stretch in which the young Bulldogs need to get healthy, particularly in defense and rebounding. Monday night’s effort was another step in that direction, although a small step.
“We played some great teams early in the year, probably before we were ready to,” said head coach Mark Fox, alluding to Georgia Tech, Davidson, Temple and Nebraska. “But we have a good idea of where we have some strengths and where we have weaknesses, and now we have this stretch of games where we can address those things and go into SEC play hopefully more polished than we are now.”
There was no grand celebrating for Georgia, which has become used to routing smaller-school teams at home. But the Bulldogs were happy with their performance in the two areas of emphasis:
They won the rebounding margin easily, 51-38.
They gave up 12 offensive rebounds but did have 10 blocks and seven steals and held Chattanooga to 29.7 percent field goal shooting.
Georgia actually has been a pretty good offensive team this year. But the defense has been the downfall in the four losses.
“We had that tournament in the beginning of the year where we could see some mistakes that we had and could see some things we could improve on,” said junior forward Nemanja Djurisic, who had a team-high 14 points. “Definitely this five-game stretch will help us work on those mistakes and try to build this team.”
“We’re just trying to learn from the mistakes that we had and those games we did lose and trying to make sure we fix those problems,” said sophomore guard Kenny Gaines, who had 10 points. “Kind of get back on our feet, get a couple wins on our belt, so we can go into SEC play with a good record.”
Junior forward Marcus Thornton chipped in eight points and nine rebounds. The Bulldogs also played most of the game without starting point guard and leading scorer Charles Mann, who has a minor shin contusion and only played nine minutes.
Next up for Georgia is Lipscomb, followed by Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina. The key will not be the margin of victory or point total but whether those weak points are truly getting better.
“I’ve been preaching to our team that we have to value the blue-collar parts of our team, defense and rebounding,” Fox said.