About the Game
- Georgia opens its 2012 Southeastern Conference schedule when it entertains Alabama in a Saturday evening contest. The Bulldogs haven't played a game in eight days, when they wrapped up their pre-conference slate with a 58-51 win at home against Delaware State.
- The DSU win was Georgia's fifth in a row and improved its record to 9-5 on the season.
- Last season Georgia posted its best conference record in eight years, going 9-7 and tying for third place in the Eastern Division. The Bulldogs had more success against the West teams (5-1) than within their own division (4-6). Their lone loss against the West was at Alabama in the last game of the regular season.
- Divisional records are now part of history, however. After 20 years of dividing up the league into East and West, the 12 SEC teams will now be lumped into a single set of standings as the regular season unfolds. That hasn't happened since the 1990-91 season.
- Saturday's game will be the first time during the Mark Fox era that Georgia has opened SEC play against a school other than Kentucky. His first Bulldog team lost in Lexington and last year's squad opened its league schedule with a 77-70 win over the Wildcats.
- These two programs met twice last season six days apart, and Alabama won each time: 65-57 in Tuscaloosa to close out the regular season and 65-59 in the SEC Tournament second round.
- Perhaps the most obvious thread that has bound together Georgia's current 5-game win streak has been the play of senior guard Dustin Ware. His assignment to the bench -- ending a streak of 87 collegiate starts -- coincided with the start of the Dogs' win streak. Since then, he's averaged 13.2 points (his career avg. is 7.9 ppg), shooting 63 percent from 3-point range (15x24).
Barring something unforeseen, Ware is on track to become just the 7th player in UGA history to hand out at least 350 assists and score 1,000 points in a career.
#Assists Per Game
Head Coach: Mark Fox
Record at Georgia / Years: 44-34 / 3rd season
Overall Record/Years: 167-77 / 8th season
Assistant Coaches: Kwanza Johnson, Philip Pearson, Stacey Palmore
|ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
|F||1||JaMychal Green||6-8||240||Sr.||Montgomery, Ala.||15.3||6.8|
|F||5||Tony Mitchell||6-6||220||Jr.||Swainsboro, Ga.||15.1||7.4|
|G||3||Trevor Lacey||6-3||200||Fr.||Huntsville, Ala.||6.7||3.0|
|G||20||Levi Randolph||6-5||185||Fr.||Madison, Ala.||6.2||4.4|
|G||12||Trevor Releford||6-0||190||So.||Kansas City, Mo.||12.4||3.4a|
Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record at Alabama / Years: 53-30 / 3rd season
Overall Record / Years: 129-55 / 5th season
Assistant Coaches: Dan Hipsher (Assoc. HC), John Brannen, Tony Pujol
Georgia vs. Alabama
- Saturday's game is the 138th meeting between Georgia and Alabama in basketball. Alabama leads the series, which began in 1922 and has continued annually since 1947, by an 90-47 count.
- Alabama has won more times in Athens in this series than Georgia has (30-29). Georgia, however, has won the past three, including the most recent meeting, a 76-70 decision in the 2010 season.
- Georgia has won just 12 times in Tuscaloosa, but five of them have come in its past 10 trips there. That includes the first four trips to Tuscaloosa after 1992, when the SEC expanded and was pared into divisions.
- These two teams have met in the SEC Tournament 10 times and Alabama owns a 6-4 edge in those games. This will be their first meeting at the tournament since 1999. Georgia defeated Alabama 86-71 in the championship game of the 1983 tournament, a performance that served as a springboard for the Bulldogs' march to the NCAA Final Four that year.
- This game holds particular significance for third-year Georgia assistant Philip Pearson. The Montgomery, Ala., native spent 16 years representing the Crimson Tide program, either as a player or coach, the last half-season (2009) as its interim head coach.
- A geographical breakdown of the series follows:
Games in Athens: UA leads 30-29
Games in Tuscaloosa: UA leads 51-12
Neutral-Court Games: UA leads 9-6
SEC Tournament Games: UA leads 6-4
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was named as the SEC's Freshman of the Week on Dec. 19. It marked just the seventh time in 12 years of this award that a Georgia Bulldog had earned the honor. It was the first since Trey Thompkins won the F-O-W award for the week of Dec. 1, 2008.
Turnovers per Game...as in, Fewest Per Game. It's a stat that isn't kept officially by the SEC office but can be found with a little digging. Georgia leads the league with 11.1 miscues per game, a figure that ranks 13th among 338 Division I teams (the NCAA does indeed keep this stat.). Already this season Georgia has had six games of single-digit turnovers, matching the performance of last year's team. You must go back to the 2003 season to find the last time Georgia had single-digit turnovers in three straight games, like the Bulldogs did vs. USC/Furman/Mercer last month.
For a team that ranked in the bottom 10 percent of all NCAA Division I schools in FG percentage, Georgia's 51 percent shooting against USC marked a stark turnaround. It was the Bulldogs' first effort of the season over 50 percent, something even last year's 21-win team did just eight times. Their 69 percent shooting from 3-point range approached record levels. It was the fifth-best percent in UGA history and its best since shooting 69 percent at Kentucky in 2009.
Leading up to the Southern Cal game, Georgia ranked 12th in the SEC -- and by a wide margin -- in 3-point shooting percentage at 29 percent. In the five games since, the Bulldogs have shot 44 percent from behind the arc to raise their seasonal percentage to 33.7 and legitimize coach Mark Fox's pre-season claim that Georgia had its share of good shooters.
ous seasons in 2010 and 2011. This year, however, he has thrust himself prominently into a crowded backcourt rotation, even starting nine of the past 10 games at the point position. He's already established new career highs in scoring, rebounds and minutes, most recently scoring a career-best 11 points against Mercer on Dec. 20.
During Georgia's 5-game winning streak, Williams has compiled a +4/1 assist/turnover ratio as the Bulldogs' starter at point guard.
Sophomore Donte' Williams has also benefitted from a greatly increased role this season. The 6-9 forward has become Georgia's top frontline offensive threat, with double-figure scoring four times already, including a career-high 17 points against South Dakota State. In just 14 games, Williams has virtually quintupled his scoring output from his 2011 total. He also leads Georgia in blocked shots with 21.
The 2011-12 Bulldogs began this season amid fairly low expectations...externally, at least. In the SEC-sponsored media poll -- a panel that featured two jounalists from each school's coverage area -- Georgia was pegged for an 8th-place finish in the SEC. This, after a year in which the Bulldogs posted the program's first winning record in SEC play since 2003.
Georgia senior Gerald Robinson was named to the Coaches' Pre-Season All-SEC 2nd Team. The Nashville, Tenn., native was one of 16 players picked to two 8-man squads by the league's head coaches. Robinson is the top returning scorer and assist man for the Bulldogs.
After a relatively slow start to the season, Robinson has picked up his pace considerably. He's averaged 16.7 points over the Bulldogs' past six games, including three games over the 20-point mark. He played a key role in Georgia's late comeback win over Winthrop on Dec. 27, when he scored a tying basket with a court-length layup with 2.4 seconds left.
Win or lose, Saturday will be a special occasion in the life of Georgia rookie Nemi Djurisic. The native Montenegrin is among many Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe that celebrate Christmas on January 7. The difference stems from the traditional observance of Christmas according to the Julian Calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian Calendar that is more commonly used.
Another family tradition that, presumably, Djurisic will not observe is a full day of fasting on January 6.
It remains to be seen how long sophomore forward Marcus Thornton will be sidelined with an injured right knee. The sophomore from Atlanta went down in the first half of Georgia's win over Furman on Dec. 23. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Dec. 27 and has been out of action since. Thornton's absence removes the Bulldogs' best rebounder from their lineup; he was averaging 6.3 boards per contest at the time of his injury.
Of RPIs and Such
A few observations about Georgia's place in the world of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI):
- The Bulldogs' most recent RPI rating of 104 is their lowest of the season to date.
- Despite a dificult early-season schedule for Georgia, Alabama represents the highest-rated opponent yet at 17.
- From a strictly RPI point of view, Georgia's best win of the season was its Nov. 16 victory over South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits currently check in with an RPI of 65, enter the weekend with a 10-4 record and boast a 19-point win at Washington on their resume.
Georgia and the NBA
Georgia's two premature departures from 2011 have seen early-season action with the NBA team that drafted them in the second round. Both Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie have played for the Los Angeles Clippers, the former in four games and the latter in two. They both saw action in the Clippers' most recent game, a Jan. 4 win at home against Houston.
Perhaps more noteworthy, however, is the progress of 3rd-year pro Sundiata Gaines, who finished his career at Georgia in 2008. After playing in the D-League for 1 1/2 seasons, Gaines was signed in 2010 by Utah, had cups of coffee in Minnesota and Toronto and seems to have found a home in the New Jersey Nets. The Jamaica, N.Y., native has started in five of the Nets' seven games thus far this season, averaging 9.1 points per game.
For just the third time ever, Georgia now has four alumni currently playing in the NBA: the aforementioned trio, as well as elder statesman Damien Wilkins, who now plays in Detroit. Just once has UGA placed five alums in the NBA at the same time: the 1993-94 season (Dominique Wilkins, Willie Anderson, Vern Fleming, Litterial Green and Alec Kessler).
Georgia and the SEC
Following are a few tidbits about Georgia's history in the SEC:
- Georgia's all-time record in SEC games, covering 77 years, is 484-711 (.405). That ranks 10th of the 12 current SEC members.
- Georgia can claim one SEC regular-season championship (1990), one regular-season divisional title (2002) and two SEC Tournament crowns (1983, 2008).
- Georgia has had just one AP SEC Player of the Year: Dominique Wilkins in 1981 and no POY, as voted by the league's coaches since 1987. Other superlative post-season awards include Coaches' SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Rashad Wright in 2004), AP SEC Newcomer of the Year (Jarvis Hayes in 2002), and Scholar-Athlete of the Year (Dave Bliss in 2008).
- Wilkins was the first of four Georgia players to lead the SEC in scoring at season's end. He averaged a league-best 23.6 points per game in 1981. Others to follow him have been Vern Fleming (19.8 ppg in 1984), Jumaine Jones (18.8 ppg in 1999) and Jarvis Hayes (18.6 ppg in 2002).
- Georgia has an all-time SEC Tournament record of 38-49. The 2008 tourney marked the first time since 1997 that Georgia has reached the finals.
- Since the league expanded and was pared into East and West Divisions in 1992, Georgia has a 139-180 (.434) record. Eight times since '92 Georgia has had a league record of .500 or better (1993, '95, '96, '97, '01,'03, 07, '11).
- Since the league's expansion, Georgia has a 75-123 record (.376) record against the Eastern Division, a 63-57 mark (.518) against SEC Western Division teams. Bulldog teams have had winning records against the West in 13 of 19 years. Georgia's only undefeated season against the West came in 2003.
- In the 16-game SEC schedule format, Georgia's most wins came in 2003, when it compiled an 11-5 mark. The Bulldogs' timing, however, left much to be desired. That same year, Kentucky won the East with a perfect 16-0 mark and Florida placed second at 12-4. Georgia's 11-5 mark would've won the West by two games.
- In case anyone was wondering, Georgia is 0-3 all-time against Missouri and has never played a basketball game against Texas A&M. The 2001 Bulldogs lost to Mizzou in the NCAA Tournament first round. The two schools also played a home-and-home series during the 2009-10 seasons.
Schedule Among Nation's Toughest
Georgia's schedule features as many as 17 games that could come against teams that played in the 2011 postseason. In addition to the SEC, other so-called "power" leagues represented on the Bulldogs 2012 schedule include the following:
Atlantic Coast; Atlantic Ten; Big East; BigTwelve; Pac 12
Additionally, the Bulldogs are slated for at least 16 national television dates and 12 more regional TV appearances. They've been tabbed twice as part of ESPN's "Super Tuesday" coverage of college basketball, both times against SEC Eastern Division rivals: Jan. 10 at Florida and two weeks later at home against Kentucky.
"Masters" of their Field
Two Bulldogs, Gerald Robinson and Connor Nolte, will be playing the 2011-12 season while pursuing master's degrees. Both transferred to UGA in 2010, Robinson from Tennessee State and Nolte from Furman. Each completed his undergraduate degree and participated in commencement services in 2011. Robinson, whose bachelor's degree is in Speech Communication, is working towards a master's in Adult Education. Nolte earned his first degree in Marketing and is now earning his graduate degree in Sport Management.
Their graduation helped to mark a banner year, academically speaking, for the Bulldogs. Also earning diplomas in the spring of 2011 were Georgia's two 4-year seniors, Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price. The Bulldogs' next group of 4-year seniors is also due to graduate next spring: Matt Bucklin and Dustin Ware.
Upgrades to Stegeman Court, Sound
Just one year after a $13 million cosmetic facelift to Stegeman Coliseum, the 48-year-old arena received two major upgrades in the offseason. A new state-of-the-art sound system was installed duing the summer months by Baker Audio of Norcross, Ga., at a cost of nearly $620,000. In addition, the Bulldogs will enjoy playing on a nearly-new playing court. The UGA Athletic Association purchased the playing surface from the NCAA, which installed it for its 2011 Women's Regional at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas. Typically, the NCAA hires Connor Sport Court International of Amasa, Mich., to manufacture courts for its eight Regional sites, as well as the two Final Four sites. It then sells the slightly-used courts to interested schools. Total cost for purchasing, resanding and finishing the floor for use in Stegeman Coliseum: $90,000.
KCP the Latest McD's All-American
When Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was named a 2011 McDonald's All-American, it had been almost 20 years since the last Georgia signee earned the prestigious honor. Athens' own Carlos Strong arrived on campus in 1992 as a McD's appointee.
Technically, Damien Wilkins was the most recent McDonald's All-American to play at Georgia, but he signed with and played at N.C. State for two seasons before transferring to UGA in 2002.
UGA signed five McD's all-stars in a 3-year span from 1979-82. They formed the nucleus of the group that reached the 1983 NCAA Final Four.
SEC Race, Tournament to Have Different Looks in 2012
Just shy of their 20th birthdays, the SEC Eastern and Western Divisions have seen their final days. The league's basketball coaches voted first, followed by its ADs and then its presidents and chancellors, to adopt a 1-12 seeding in the conference post-season tournament, with byes going to the top four finishers. All teams will play the unbalanced, 16-game schedule for the coming season but will increase that total for the 2013 campaign, likely to 18 games, as it was before the SEC was pared into divisions for the 1991-92 season.
The SEC Tournament returns this season to New Orleans for the third time ever, but for the first time at the New Orleans Arena, home to the NBA's Hornets.
"Green As the New York Jets"
As his Bulldogs prepared to begin the 2012 season, head coach Mark Fox alluded to the NFL's New York Jets in describing the team's lack of experience. And he's not too far off. Aside from seniors Dustin Ware and Gerald Robinson, fellow senior Connor Nolte is Georgia's only other player to have ever started in a college basketball game prior to the 2012 season. Nolte started the Bulldogs' first three games of last season and he also started 15 of 60 games as a freshman and sophomore at Furman University in the 2008-09 seasons.
Additionally, because of the installation of the new court at Stegeman Coliseum, all of Georgia's newcomers had never even taken a shot on their home court until early November.