Georgia plays the first of two home games in a Saturday contest against Texas A&M. This is the return installment of the regular-season series that opened two weeks ago in College Station. The Bulldogs won that game 59-52.
In fact, Georgia's win at Texas A&M started its current win streak, which has now reached four games. It's the longest win streak by Georgia in SEC play since the 2003 season.
The Bulldogs arrive at this game with an 11-11 overall record, 5-4 in the SEC. Most recently, they defeated Tennessee in Knoxville 68-62 three nights ago. The victory brought Georgia's record back to the .500 mark for the first time since mid-November. It also created another "first time since" landmark: Georgia has now posted SEC road wins on back-to-back dates in the schedule for the first time since 2001.
The 2001 season was also the last time Georgia won five straight SEC games, a feat the current Bulldogs will be shooting for today. The '01 squad, in fact, won six straight during January of that season.
Leading the way through this 4-game streak, of course, has been sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Greenville, Ga., native has raised his already-high level of performance, averaging 21.3 points during this stretch, shooting 67 percent from the field, 54 percent from behind the 3-point stripe. His 24 points Wednesday at Tennessee included some late-game heroics, during which he scored six of Georgia's last seven points over the final 1:34.
An unexpected contributor to Georgia's recent success has been freshman guard Kenny Gaines. The native Atlantan, lightly used through the season's first half, has scored 11 and 12 points in the last two games, respectively, nearly the total of his previous 10 games combined.
The Bulldogs remain at home for their next contest, a Tuesday night matchup against Alabama. It's the first of two regular-season games between them, the follow-up coming as the season finale on March 9 in Tuscaloosa.
Head Coach: Cuonzo Martin Head Coach: Andy Kennedy Record at Texas A&M / Years: 28-26 / 2nd season Overall Record / Years: 239-204 / 14th season Assistant Coaches: Glynn Cyprien (Assoc. HC), Kyle Keller, John Reese
The Last Meeting
January 26, 2013
College Station, Texas
Bulldogs Hold Off Texas A&M For 59-52 Win
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 22 points, including a key 3-pointer late, as Georgia fended off a desperate rally by Texas A&M to defeat the Aggies 59-52 in an SEC basketball game here Saturday.
Georgia shoots for its fifth straight SEC win today, which would be the longest for the program since the 2001 season. The longest win streak, period, of the Mark Fox era is a 9-game run in the 2010-11 season. In the 2001 season, Georgia rang off six consecutive SEC wins, equaling win streaks put together by the 1992-93 teams (spanning both seasons) and also the SEC championship team of 1990.
A month ago, Georgia began its SEC schedule with an RPI rating of 205. The Bulldogs enter tonight's game with an RPI of 118. Why the significant jump? Mostly because two of Georgia's recent wins (@TAMU, @TENN) were its first two vs. Top 100 teams, on the road, to boot. Georgia's strength of schedule rating is currently 50th.
The South Carolina game marked the first time since the Florida A&M game on Dec. 29 that Georgia had more than two players reach double figures in scoring. That game was also Georgia's best-shooting effort (58.1%) in an SEC game since a Jan. 15, 2011 victory at Ole Miss in which the Bulldogs shot 63.5 percent.
Right now, Georgia has just one player (KCP at 17.5 ppg) averaging in double-digit scoring. Not only is it the only SEC school with such a distinction, but that also makes it the only Bulldog team of the past 50 years with just a single double-figure scorer...
Four different players have led Georgia in scoring this season: KCP, Vincent Williams, Nemi Djurisic and Charles Mann. Eight different Bulldogs have taken turns being the 2nd-leading scorer. Most frequent among those is the freshman Mann, who has owned that distinction seven times...
Georgia has used 12 different starting lineups this season. The one constant through all 12 lineups was, of course, has been Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Five other teammates (both Williamses, Morris, Florveus and Djurisic) now have double-digit starts.
One more interesting tidbit about Caldwell-Pope. Heading into this weekend, he's one of just 12 players in all of NCAA Division I that have scored in double figures in each of their team's games. He's the only SEC player to accomplish this feat and one of just five from the "BCS" leagues to do so.
Some revealing observations from Georgia's current 4- game win streak:
> Its starters have been outscored 166-141 (avg. 41.5 - 35.2). The Georgia bench, however, has outscored the opposing reserves 110 (27.5/game) - 53 (13.3/game).
> In the past four games, Georgia is shooting 49 percent from the field, 43 percent from 3-point range. Caldwell-Pope leads this surge, with shooting percentages of 67 and 54 percent, respectively.
> In the last 5 minutes of these four games, Georgia is shooting 70 percent from the field, 70 percent from the line, 67 percent from 3-point and has outrebounded the opposition 18-13.
About the Schedule
As part of the new 18-game Southeastern Conference schedule, the Bulldogs will face former Eastern Division foes Kentucky and Vanderbilt just once. It will be the first time since 1964 that Georgia has not played home-and-home series with these two longstanding foes and, for 20 years, Eastern Division rivals. In exchange for those two contests, the Bulldogs will now pick up a series with new member Texas A&M and renew a 2-game annual series with Alabama for the first time since 1992.
The addition of Texas A&M and Missouri has also added another day of competition to the post-season SEC Tournament, slated for March 13-17 in Nashville, Tenn. The Nos. 11-14 seeds in the final regular-season standings will play a doubleheader on Wednesday, with the tournament resuming its traditional schedule Thursday. It's conceivable that a team could capture the SEC Tournament championship by winning games on five consecutive days.
KCP One of UGA's Best Ever
Sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returns as one of the SEC's top players. Among his freshman-year highlights included:
He earned Freshman All-SEC honors in his first season of 2012.
KCP ranked second among all Bulldogs in scoring and led them in rebounding, minutes and steals.
His 422 points were the fifth-highest total by a UGA freshman in school history. Just as important, his 166 rebounds (5.2/game) were the tenth-best total by a UGA rookie and the most ever by a guard.
Caldwell-Pope last year was also Georgia's leader in 3-point shots made (65) and taken (214).
KCP is the fourth-leading returning scorer in the SEC, behind Boynton (Fla.), Young (Ark.) and Golden (Tenn.).
He is also the league's fifth-leading returning rebounder and its only guard among the group.
He ranks second among all returning SEC players in minutes per game (32.1), behind only LSU guard Andre Stringer (32.2 mpg).
True to form, Caldwell-Pope is the Bulldogs' only player thus far to average over 30 minutes per contest this season. He currently ranks 3rd in the SEC in minutes at 33.6 per game. Georgia's next most active player is Donte' Williams at 23.3 minutes per game.
Fox Best at Molding Talent
Blogger and hoops junkie Dan Hanner of RealGM.com penned an article in February of 2012 that anointed Georgia head coach Mark Fox as the top coach in college basketball at player development. In a blog entry, Hanner used a complex formula to rate college coaches. Among Hanner's many observations he writes, "Mark Fox has truly been fantastic at getting the most out of his players."
The top five in the Player Development category include Fox; Bo Ryan (Wisconsin); Craig Robinson (Oregon State); Lorenzo Romar (Washington); and Mike Montgomery (Cal).
Fox Also Tops at Producing Grads
Head Coach Mark Fox must also receive some degree of credit for developing high-performing students in the classroom. Since his arrival in April of 2009, no fewer than 12 Georgia basketball players have earned their undergraduate degrees, including all four seniors from 2012. Every player that has exhausted his eligibility at UGA under Fox has completed his degree.
Prominent among this group of 12 includes Damien Wilkins - nephew of UGA great Dominique Wilkins - whose last year of eligibility came in 2004 and who has played professionally in the NBA ever since.
2012-13 Bulldogs a Year Older
Year Four of the Mark Fox era at Georgia features his first roster comprised solely of players chosen by Fox and his staff. The Bulldogs of 2013 have a lone 3-year letterman in guard Vincent Williams, as well as two other seniors who took the junior-college route before arriving in Athens.
Last season the Bulldogs began the year with just two players that had experience as a starter on a Division I basketball team. This year, however, that number is now up to six, including four players that were regular starters at season's end. That quartet is comprised of two sophomores and two freshmen. In all, Georgia returns players who logged over 68 percent of its total minutes played in 2012.
Thornton Out Indefinitely
Junior forward Marcus Thornton will be out indefinitely after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Dec. 26. The native Atlantan has been plagued by injuries to both knees throughout his career in Athens. He missed five games last season because of knee surgery in December, and he underwent another surgery on his right knee immediately after the 2012 season ended, a process that kept him out of most off-season workouts.
When healthy, Thornton significantly enhances Georgia's frontcourt presence with his physical play. Before his latest setback, he had already set career highs in scoring and rebounding.
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 80 years, is 494-726 (.405). That ranks 10th of 12 SEC members (excluding Missouri and Texas A&M).
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 40-50. The 2008 tourney marked the first time since 1997 that Georgia has reached the finals.
Hayes Joins Bulldog Staff
A face familiar to Georgia basketball fans joined coach Mark Fox's staff during the offseason. Jonas Hayes, a 3-year letterman from 2002-04 and an '04 UGA graduate, was named as the Bulldogs' Operations Coordinator in May of 2012. Hayes, a native of Atlanta, had spent the previous five seasons as an assistant coach at Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C. He had also served brief stints as an assistant coach at South Carolina State, Morehouse and his alma mater, Douglass High School in Atlanta.
Hayes, whose twin brother Jarvis continues to play professionally overseas, became the first Georgia basketball alumnus to hold a full-time position on the staff at his alma mater since Shaun Golden was an administrative assistant on the staff in 1997.
Italy Trip a Valuable Tool
For the first time since 2004, Georgia ventured beyond U.S. borders for a tour of exhibition games. The Bulldogs spent the first half of August playing three games and checking out the major cities and tourist spots in Italy. They also visited UGA's art school campus in Cortona, Italy.
Georgia went 2-1 on its tour of games, winding up with a 17-point victory on the same day they visited the Colosseum in Rome. Given the anticipated roles of Georgia's freshmen this coming season, perhaps more important than the trip were the 10 practices that preceded the Bulldogs' departure overseas.