Final Records: 19-8 overall, 11-5 in SEC
Another Strong Season for Dogs
Despite their self-imposed ban on post-season games, the Georgia Bulldogs again turned in their third straight successful season. Among the most important milestones achieved included:
The second straight year in which Georgia won double-digit SEC games. That's the first time in school history Georgia won at least 10 games in league competition. Such an accomplishment magnifies in scope when you consider the overall strength of the SEC. Last season's team won 10 conference games but tied for first in the Eastern Division. This year's Bulldogs improved their SEC record by one game but settled for third place in the Eastern standings.
Georgia spent more consecutive weeks in the national Top 25 polls (10) than in any previous year. The Bulldogs began the season ranked 16th in both national Top 25 polls, probably an inflated standing, given the Bulldogs' partial roster. Three losses in their first four games caused them to drop from the polls and, in essence, the national college hoops radar screen. The return of Steve Thomas on Dec. 18 gave Georgia a full roster, and thereafter the Dogs went 14-6.
For the second year in three, Georgia played what was rated the nation's most difficult schedule. Indeed, the Bulldogs played 18 of their 27 games against teams that played in the postseason. Their record in those games was 13-5 and it included a 10-4 slate against NCAA Tournament teams.
Never before had Georgia been slated for more television appearances than in 2002-03. All but four of the Bulldogs' 27 games were carried by some TV entity, including seven times with national coverage: three times each on CBS and ESPN and another on ESPN2. What a difference a year makes! Before the postseason, the 2002 team played just twice on national TV and only 14 times overall.
The season was not without its dramatic moments. Three times the Bulldogs either won or lost games at the buzzer. They lost the Minnesota game and Florida road game on desperate 3-point shots that fell as the buzzer sounded. Most agree that Georgia's season turned on the 71-70 win at Colorado. In Boulder, Jonas Hayes capped an improbable comeback when he sank the only 3-point shot he's ever taken in a basketball game, a 30-footer that fell with :0.2 left. The shot turned Georgia's record from 1-4 to 2-3 and started an 8-game winning streak that reached into the SEC schedule.
Individually, junior forward Jarvis Hayes became Georgia's first two-time consensus All-SEC 1st-teamer since Dominique Wilkins won honors in 1981-82. The 6-7 Atlanta native scored 1,031 points in two seasons, reaching the 1,000-point mark in five fewer games than career scoring leader Litterial Green. Senior guard Ezra Williams won All-SEC 2nd-team honors for the second straight year and finished his Georgia career with 1,350 points, good for 14th place on the school's all-time list.
Attendance Records Fall Again
With its ninth straight sellout in the home finale against Florida, Georgia established new single-season attendance records for the second consecutive year. Here are the marks that have been set again:
Avg. attendance for all home games: 9,857 (94 percent of capacity)
The streak of sellouts began Dec. 31 in the Pittsburgh game and continued through the entire SEC schedule. there have now been 18 total sellouts since Harrick became the Georgia coach four years ago.
Hayes Named SEC P-O-W
For the first time of his career at Georgia, junior forward Jarvis Hayes was named SEC Player of the Week, according to an announcement Monday by the league office in Birmingham. Hayes led the Bulldogs in scoring in both of their victories last week, pumping in 23 against Alabama and 26 in the win over South Carolina. His 26 against the Gamecocks were his highest total of the SEC schedule thus far and the second-highest of the season.
Here are some uncommonly good numbers about Hayes: his scoring average during the SEC season (17.9 ppg) is higher than his overall average (17.8). In addition, his scoring average on the road in the SEC season is higher than his average at home (18.8 to 17.0).
This is the second time of the season that a Bulldog won the honor. Ezra Williams took the P-O-W award in the first week of January.
3-Point FG Pct.: 2nd (43.3%)
Turnovers/Game: 12th (12.2/game)
Interestingly, of the eight teams that rank ahead of Georgia in NCAA scoring stats, seven of them are also ahead of the Dogs in the AP Top 25.
Also from the current AP poll, Georgia's field-goal percentage of 47.7% is the 13th-best of all 25 teams. Its scoring defense (73.6 ppg) and FG percentage defense (44.0%), however, both rank 25th among the members of the poll.
In the 17 years of the 3-point shot, just two SEC schools have had higher percentages at season's end than Georgia's current mark of 43.3 percent (Alabama in 1987 - 44.3% and Auburn in 1991 - 45.2%).
In the Mississippi State game, Rashad Wright handed out his 100th assist of the season, marking the third straight season in which he's gone over that mark. No player in Georgia history had ever reached 100 assists in his first three years before Wright, not even career assist leader Litterial Green.
Five times in their 1 1/2 seasons together have Jarvis Hayes and Ezra Williams hit for 20 or more points apiece in the same game. The Jan. 5 win over LSU marked the most recent occurrence. Georgia is 5-0 in those games:
Georgia's recent on-court surge - combined with some stellar play by its non-conference opponents - have caused a meteoric rise by the Dogs in the national power ratings.
Just in the past three weeks, they've risen from the mid-30s in the RPI listings to their current spot at No. 2. In addition, their strength of schedule rating has risen on a parallel path, going from the low-30s to its spot today at No. 1. That figure isn't likely to swoon anytime soon as the Bulldogs reach the middle stages of the SEC slate.
Georgia currently leads the SEC in assist/turnover ratio at +1.54/1. That mark is a significant improvement from last season, when the Bulldogs ranked 3rd in the league at +1.08 assists per turnover.
Don't look now, though, for Georgia also ranks last in the SEC in several defensive categories, including scoring defense, FG percentage defense and 3-point FG percentage defense.
What's the biggest difference in Georgia with Steve Thomas, compared to the seven games without him? The Bulldogs seem to be much better defenders with him. The past five opponents have shot 41 percent, compared to 45.1 percent by the first seven teams. Georgia has gotten over half (34) of its 60 total blocked shots in its last five games, an average of 6.5 per game. Thomas alone currently averages nearly 3.0 blocks per contest, while Chris Daniels leads Georgia with 22 blocks.
Georgia has scored over 90 points in three straight games, something that hasn't happened since early in the 1997-98 season. In this mini-streak, the Dogs have also shot over 50 percent and handed out over 20 assists each time. from behind the stripe.
Rashad Wright recently joined a group of 10 players in UGA history that have scored at least 500 points and handed out 300 assists in their careers. He did both in the same game, doing so last Sunday against Appalachian State. He's now 11th on the career assist list with 301.
In the Cal game Dec. 7, Ezra Williams scored a team-high 23 points, which put him at 1,008 for his career. He became the 31st player in school history to surpass the 1,000-point mark.
Technically speaking, however, Jarvis Hayes crossed the 1,000-point plateau in the final game of the 2002 season. He scored 479 points as a freshman at Western Carolina, 538 at Georgia last season. Counting his entire collegiate career, he now has 1,148 points...
Signing Period Nets Five
Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick announced the signing of three high school seniors to national letters-of-intent: Mohamed Abukar of Escondido, Calif.; Corey Gibbs of Lithonia, Ga., and Jordan Howell of Madison, Ala.
The Bulldogs also got letters-of-intent from junior college players Cassiano Matheus (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Marcus Jackson (Peoria, Ill.), who both attend South Plains Junior College in Levelland, Texas.
The 6-9, 200-pound Abukar has just begun his final season at Rancho Bernardo High School, for which he averaged 20.3 points and 11.8 rebounds as a junior. Last summer he was the youngest member of the U.S. team at the World Junior Championships Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela.
Gibbs is widely considered to be the top senior prospect in Georgia for the 2003 season. Though he now attends Redan High School, the 6-8, 235-pound forward starred last season for Pace Academy in Atlanta, averaging 22.5 points, 15.0 rebounds and 6.2 blocks per game.
Howell, a 6-3 point guard, is currently a senior at Bob Jones High School. Last season he averaged 13.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game and was an All-State selection.
Matheus, a 6-10, 235-pound native of Brazil, is averaging 9.0 points and 8.1 rebounds through six games of his sophomore season at South Plains.
Jackson, 6-8 and 234 pounds, was an All-Western Jr. College Athletic Conference first-team pick as a freshman last year, averaging 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Schedule Strength a UGA Hallmark
Since coming to Athens, Georgia coach Jim Harrick has developed a knack for putting his teams through a rigorous pre-conference schedule. In each of the past two seasons, Georgia's schedule has ranked in the nation's top 10 in degree of difficulty. The 2001 slate, in fact, rated #1 nationally in both RPI and Sagarin rankings and was likely the biggest reason Georgia was invited to the NCAA Tournament with only a 16-14 record.
This season will be no different. The Bulldogs are slated to play two non-conference teams currently ranked in the Top Five (Texas & Pittsburgh) and road games against four so-called ?high major? programs: Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Colorado and California.
In all, Georgia's schedule features 17 of its 27 games against teams that played in post-season tournaments last season. Dogs Trample All-Stars in Exhibition
In Georgia's exhibition opener last week, Damien Wilkins just missed a "triple double," racking up 22 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in leading the Bulldogs to a 108-76 win over the Southeast Atlanta All-Stars at Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia got double-figure scoring from four others, including 17 points from Rashad Wright, who made five of seven shots from 3-point range. Jarvis Hayes added 15 points while Ezra Williams contributed 13 and reserve guard Mike Dean chipped in 11.
Williams got Georgia rolling at the game's outset, sinking consecutive treys and helping the Bulldogs break out to a 12-0 lead. By halftime Georgia had gotten points from eight different players in racking up a 57-28 advantage.
Bulldogs Tabbed 2nd in East; Hayes, Williams Named Pre-Season All-SEC
Georgia was picked to finish second in the Eastern Division at the Southeastern Conference Basketball Media Day that was conducted in Birmingham, Ala., on October 31.
The defending East co-champs received 87 poll points, trailing only Florida, which tallied 59 points, in the division predictions. pegged for a third-place finish (99 points), with South Carolina (180), Tennessee (190) and Vanderbilt (225) completing the division. Florida received 26 first-place votes, Georgia had nine, and Kentucky had five.
Alabama, with 30 first-place votes, was a prohibitive pick to repeat as Western Division champs. The Tide's 54 points led Mississippi State with 93, LSU with 126, Ole Miss with 143, Arkansas with 211 and Auburn's 213.
In addition, junior forward Jarvis Hayes was selected to the pre-season All-SEC first team. Other members of the first unit included Erwin Dudley of Alabama, Mario Austin of Mississippi State, Maurice Williams of Alabama and Brett Nelson of Florida.
Georgia guard Ezra Williams was named to the pre-season All-SEC second team along with Ronald Dupree of LSU, Matt Bonner of Floida, Keith Bogans of Kentucky and Derrick Zimmerman of Mississippi State.
(AP, Coaches' 1st team)
(AP 2nd team, Coaches' 2nd team)
SEC Player of the Week
(Week of Dec. 30-Jan. 5)
(Weeks of Feb. 17-24)
SEC "Good Works" Team
John R. Wooden Classic All-Tourn. Team
2002-03 Team Awards
Outstanding Defensive Player
Outstanding Free Throw Shooter
Best Field Goal Percentage
"Bombs Away" Award (3-pt. shooting)
"Take Charge" Award (Charges Taken)
Most Blocked Shots
Heart & Hustle Award
Most Improved Player
Individual Workout Award
Tommy Reeder Scholarship
Joe Jordan Memorial Award
Bank of America Leadership Award
High Spirit Award