Bulldogs Blog

Gaines battling to regain early production for Bulldogs

CURTIS COMPTON/Atlanta Journal Constitution via APGeorgia guard Kenny Gaines dunks against Tennessee Jan. 13 in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 81-72.
CURTIS COMPTON/Atlanta Journal Constitution via APGeorgia guard Kenny Gaines dunks against Tennessee Jan. 13 in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 81-72. AP

The college basketball season has hit the doldrums of late January.

Perennial contenders, including Duke and Kentucky, are even showing signs of fatigue, and Mark Fox's Georgia basketball program is no exception.

"Our guys have to saddle up 30 plus times a year and it's a very long season and there's usually at least one road game a week so just the mental grind and the emotional consistency that you need, it's not always there," Fox said. "That's why we had such great respect for what Kentucky did last year because it is extremely difficult to be at your peak that many times at this age."

One player who really embodies the struggles of the team is senior guard Kenny Gaines.

Normally, Gaines is a sure-handed scorer. In the first six games of the season, he shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and scored 16.5 points per game before suffering a knee injury before Winthrop in early December.

Gaines maintains that he is "100 percent," but he hasn't been the same player since then. Despite averaging more minutes per game and the same number of shots per game over his last nine, Gaines has seen his points per game drop to 12.5 and he's seen his shooting percentage on both twos and three's fall by nearly 10 percent. Even Gaines acknowledges that his play has been "decent, not great."

"(I) could do better in a lot of areas but don't want to over stress things," Gaines said.

Some of the struggles can be attributed to fatigue. With a long season, Gaines admits that sometimes it's hard to match physical condition with emotional energy.

"I wouldn't say it's hard to get up but sometimes it's hard to make sure that your body feels a certain type of way," Gaines said. "Emotionally, you can be there but sometimes your body can be a little fatigued just because we have two games a week and they're all high-level games."

Some of the problem may fall on how Gaines is being guarded, as well.

Gaines said that, much more than in the past, he's being guarded tightly, which creates fewer open opportunities.

Senior guard Charles Mann noticed that Gaines has been guarded closely, too, but pointed out that it creates more opportunities for the rest of the team and that it's up to them to pick up the production.

"We have a team in which a lot of people on our team can score and make plays," Mann said. "When they focus on one person, that just opens things up for the other four people on the floor."

That being said, good players are always going to be guarded closely, so Gaines has to find ways to adjust to the defense and find other ways to be productive, which he says has been "a little difficult at times."

Fox isn't letting him forget that, either.

"Obviously he's moved up on the scouting report for everybody and he's shot the ball very well, and so he has to learn how to play against a different level of defense," Fox said. "Kentavious (Caldwell-Pope) went through something similar. Kenny has to really learn how to really move without the ball, use screens the right way, read defenses and when he gets an advantage, and the windows are small, he's got to take advantage of it."