March 18, 2014
About this game...
- Georgia returns to post-season play for the first time in three years when it entertains Vermont, from the America East Conference, in the National Invitation Tournament first round Wednesday night. The Bulldogs are a #2 seed in the 32-team field, the Catamounts a #7 seed. The winner will face the winner of the Louisiana Tech-Iona game, which will tip off 30 minutes before this game Wednesday.
- Georgia's 2014 appearance marks the program's 12th all-time participation in the NIT and first since 2007. Bulldog teams have compiled an 11-11 mark in this tournament. The school's first-ever post-season berth was a slot in the 1981 NIT. The following year Georgia advanced to the NIT Final Four, the first of two such trips to New York for the program. The 1998 team also reached the semifinals.
- Most recently, the Bulldogs went 1-1 last week at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. They entered the weekend as the No. 3 seed and defeated Ole Miss 75-73 in the quarters before dropping a 70-58 semfinal outcome to #2 seed Kentucky.
- Georgia and Vermont have played one previous game against one another: an 88-55 UGA victory in a game played in Athens on Jan. 31, 1974. There is one additional tie that binds these two programs together. Three-year UGA letterman Tom Brennan (1969-71) served as Vermont's head basketball coach for 19 seasons (1986-2005). He retired after his best season in 2005, when the Catamounts went 25-7, won the America East title and upset Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. UGA honored Brennan by naming him as its basketball legend at the 2010 SEC Tournament.
- Georgia is shooting for its 20th victory of the season Wednesday It would be just the 12th such season in the program's history and second in the past 12 years. For these Bulldogs, that's heady stuff, considering they stood at 6-6 as their pre-conference slate concluded with a 73-55 loss at George Washington.
|F||2||Marcus Thornton**||6-8||235||RJr.||Atlanta, Ga.||8.1||6.1|
|F||15||Donte' Williams***||6-9||225||Sr.||Ellenwood, Ga.||5.1||5.1|
|F||31||Brandon Morris||6-7||215||So.||Lithonia, Ga.||8.7||3.4|
|G||4||Charles Mann*||6-5||210||So.||Alpharetta, Ga.||13.4||3.0#|
|G||12||Kenny Gaines*||6-3||195||So.||Atlanta, Ga.||13.3||2.4|
#Assists Per Game
|G||12||Sandro Carissimo||6-2||170||Sr.||Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.||12.6||3.3|
|G||21||Candon Rusin||6-4||190||Sr.||Wilmington, Vt.||9.6||1.6|
|F||1||Brian Voeklel||6-6||210||Sr.||Pleasantville, N.Y.||6.7||8.2|
|F||31||Clancy Rugg||6-8||195||Sr.||Burlington, Vt.||13.2||6.1|
|F||32||Ethan O'Day||6-9||205||So.||Mansfield, Conn.||7.6||4.0|
#Assists Per GameHead Coach: John Becker
Record at Vermont / Years: 67-34 / 3rd season
Overall Record / Years: Same
Assistant Coaches: Chris Markwood, Matt O'Brien, Kyle Cieplicki
Georgia vs. Vermont
Wednesday's game is just the second all-time meeting between these two schools. Georgia won the only previous meeting, played in Athens on Jan. 31, 1974, by an 88-55 score.
- Here's some historical perspective to Georgia's performance in the SEC season. This is the 81st year of competition in the SEC. The 2014 season marks just the 10th time that Georgia has managed to win at least 10 conference games. All 10 of those years follow in descending order:
13 wins: 1990 (won regular-season championship) 12 wins: 1985, 2014 11 wins: 1968, 1970, 2003 10 wins: 1982, 1987, 1997, 2002
For what it's worth, Georgia's 1983 team won the SEC Tournament and reached the NCAA Final Four, yet managed only a 9-9 record in conference play.
- In that same 81-year span, Georgia has finished second or higher in the SEC standings just four times:
1st - 1990 2nd - 1985 t2nd - 2002, 2014
- Road wins in conference play are prized possessions, for sure, but road wins by double digits are rarer still. Georgia has two of them on its resume -- by 20 at Miss. State and by 17 at South Carolina -- for the first time in 17 seasons, going back to the 1997 campaign, Tubby Smith's second in Athens.
- Another landmark related to Smith's brief tenure at Georgia: the current team posted seven wins by double digits in SEC play. That's the most by a team at UGA since Smith's first team did it in 1996.
- The 2014 Bulldogs went 8-2 in their last 10 regular-season games. Included in that 10-game span were three road victories and a perfect 5-0 mark at home. The average victory margin of the five home wins was 12.4 points; for the three road wins, it was 15.3 points.
- The 2014 team swept four of its five home-and-home series in SEC play. That's the first Georgia team to sweep four regular-season series in 24 years, going back to the 1990 season, when the conference played an 18-game, double round-robin schedule.
- Kenny Gaines averaged just 3.7 points in 10.3 minutes as a freshman last year, playing primarily behind the SEC's MVP, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This season he has scored in double figures 22 times. Most prominently, Gaines has found his range from the 3-point arc. Over the Bulldogs' last five regular-season games, he made 21 of 36 shots from 3-point range (52 percent).
Gaines earned Honorable Mention All-SEC honors this week by the Associated Press.
- Charles Mann's knack for frequent trips to the free-throw line is no secret. As a freshman last season, he had the fifth most free-throw attempts of any SEC player (170). He surpassed that mark this season in the 22nd game, and this year he's second in the SEC in that category behind Auburn's Chris Denson. Mann now has the third most FT attempts (257) in a single season in UGA history, six behind the holder of the No. 2 spot, Alec Kessler (1990) . He also has the third most FT makes in a single season in UGA history, 21 behind Kessler's No. 2 position. He's a long shot to break both records -- currently held by Zippy Morocco (210x303 in 1953) -- depending on how many more games Georgia plays.
Mann was named last week to the Coaches' All-SEC 2nd team, following his appointment in 2013 to their SEC All-Freshman squad. It hasn't been long since a Georgia player enjoyed such honors. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was also named as a Freshman All-SEC player in 2012 before winning the league's MVP award in his final season of 2013.
- Free throws aren't the sexiest stat around, but it sure explains a lot behind Georgia's 19 wins this season. The 2014 team has already set the school record for most free throws attempted in a season (892). Depending on how many more games the Bulldogs play, they could also set the record for free throws made in a season. They are 24 shy of the mark of 628, set by the 1990 squad.
- Were there to be a Comeback Player of the Year award in the SEC, Marcus Thornton would certainly be a worthy candidate. The native Atlantan has been a key factor behind Georgia's landmark SEC season. He was Georgia's top rebounder (6.9) and its third-leading scorer (9.2) in league play. He scored in double figures in four of the Bulldogs' last five regular-season games. All this after undergoing three knee surgeries -- and taking a medical redshirt season in 2013 -- over the past two years.
- Georgia began this season amidst low expectations...externally, anyway. The Bulldogs were picked by the media that cover SEC basketball to finish 11th in the 14-team league, ahead of only South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn. Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee were picked 1-2-3 in the same poll. Additionally, no Bulldogs were selected to the 16-player pre-season All-SEC lists.
- The internal expectations, however, -- at least by the head coach -- were considerably higher. Coach Mark Fox is the SEC's representative as a voter on the weekly USA Today Coaches' Top 25 poll. He included his own team on his pre-season ballot, as well as the first couple of weeks into the season.
- Georgia survived the 2014 season (thus far) with relatively few injuries. The most signficant ones included:
Charles Mann, bruised right knee - Missed 1 game (Lipscomb - Dec. 14)
Kenny Gaines, deep thigh bruise - Missed 2 games (@Kentucky, Vanderbilt) and was limited in a 3rd (@Auburn)
Juwan Parker, strained hamstring - Missed 1 game (@Kentucky)
Additionally, Nemi Djurisic, sprained ankle - Did not miss any games but was limited in two (@Tennessee, @USC)
- Sophomore Brandon Morris missed the 2nd half of the finale at LSU after a collision caused him to get stitches around his left eye. In a game two weeks before vs. Missouri, he took a seat briefly when his left calf muscle cramped. After getting fluids and a Rice Krispie Treat -- yes, a Rice Krispie Treat -- he rejoined the fray less than two minutes later.
- It wasn't an injury, but a mid-season stomach virus infiltrated the Georgia team and laid several players and staffers temporarily low. The illness began its trek through the program in the second week of February, as Georgia prepared to travel to Miss. State. As a precaution, most of the travel party wore surgical masks on the plane and bus rides, as well as at the two practices in Starkville.
- Georgia begins the post-season with an RPI in the low 70s. That's a long, steep climb from its rating in the low 300s in late Novembe. Georgia began the SEC schedule on Jan. 8 with an RPI of 256.
The Bulldogs own a pair of wins over Missouri. The Tigers entered both games with a Top 50 RPI rating. Georgia won at Missouri on Jan. 8 when the Tigers owned an RPI rating of 21, as well as an Associated Press Top 25 ranking of 21st. Georgia's win in Columbia stopped a Missouri home-court winning streak that had reached a national-best 26 games.
Other RPI Top 100 wins by Georgia include (RPI on game day):
> 13-point home win over LSU (RPI of 70)
> 9-point road win over LSU (RPI of 67)
> 5-point home win over Arkansas (RPI of 65)
> 2-point neutral win over Ole Miss (RPI of 86)
- Georgia shot over 60 percent in the 2nd half on five occasions this season, including three SEC wins. The Bulldogs shot 73.9 percent in the second half Feb. 12 at Mississippi State, the program's best-shooting half since 2001.