The last time that the Georgia Bulldogs (12-3; 1-1) won an SEC road contest was March 4, 2009, when the Dawgs beat Kentucky in Rupp Arena 90-85.
The Bulldogs coach that day – Pete Hermann from the “Dennis Felton Era”.
There is no doubt that Mark Fox has begun to right the ship at Georgia. But if the Dawgs are going to have a successful season in the SEC, they must win some league games away from Stegeman Coliseum. Under Fox’s tutelage, Georgia now sports an 0-9 record in SEC road trips. If you want to impress the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee in March, you have to win away from home in your conference.
Plus, if Georgia continues to lose SEC road games, there is always the risk that the pressure will escalate and it could become more of a mental thing.
This Saturday, Georgia will travel to Oxford to take on a Mississippi Rebels (12-5; 0-2) team that was projected to finish near the top of the SEC West this season.
The Rebels share three common opponents with the Dawgs – Arkansas State, Mississippi Valley State and Saint Louis. Ole Miss beat those three teams by a combined total of 48 points. Georgia, on the other hand, won by a tally of 13 total points (it should be noted that they were without star Trey Thompkins in the MVSU and Saint Louis games).
This Ole Miss team starts and stops with senior point guard Chris Warren, a preseason All-SEC Second Team selection. Warren has unlimited range from the outside and he isn’t shy about shooting it, averaging over seven three-point attempts per game so far this season. He paces the Rebels with 18.9 ppg and 4.1 apg, while knocking down nearly 35% of his shots from beyond the arc. And similarly to Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, who the Dawgs faced on Wednesday, Warren doesn’t need a lot of space to get his shot off – Dawgs’ defenders need to keep as close to him as possible.
Joining Warren in the backcourt is fellow senior Zach Graham. The 6’6″ Graham is more of a catch-and-shoot guard, averaging 13.9 ppg. Graham isn’t a dual-threat like Chris Warren, but he is a streaky shooter that can make teams pay if he’s left open.
The Rebels are a little thin in the paint, with junior Terrance Henry and sophomore Reginald Buckner holding things down. Henry (6’9″, 205lbs) and Buckner (6’8″, 233lbs) don’t give Ole Miss too much scoring on the inside (both players average under double-digits), but both players shoot over 50% from the field and bring down over six rebounds apiece per game.
The Rebels shoot the ball very well, hitting 46.7% of their field goal attempts and 74.7% of their free throws (which is tops in the conference). Ole Miss is third in the SEC in scoring offense, averaging 76.8 points per game.
Georgia looked like an entirely different team defensively against Vanderbilt than they did against Kentucky. Against the Commodores, the Dawgs seemed a step slow defending on the perimeter, and they were pretty soft inside.
If the Dawgs are going to win at Ole Miss this Saturday, things are going to have to tighten up on the defensive end. I’m not sure who will be chasing Chris Warren around – Dustin Ware or Gerald Robinson, Jr. – but whoever it is better be ready to go.
Georgia’s defense is getting its third-straight test against an SEC team scoring in the high 70’s – actually, Kentucky ranks first in the league in points per game, then Vanderbilt and then Ole Miss.
Gerald Robinson has gotten out to a sensational start in his first two conference games, averaging 18.5 ppg and knocking down 3 of his 7 three-point attempts. The last couple of games, GR2 has looked virtually unguardable when he gets the ball on the wing. He has an ultra-quick first step to go along with an explosive burst, making him one of the hardest players in the conference to defend. I think that Robinson should have the “green light” to create every time he has the ball in his hands against a man defense.
In the loss at Vandy on Wednesday night, Robinson, Thompkins and Travis Leslie scored 82% of Georgia’s points (and Trey only had 13). If Georgia is going to win on the road in this league, they must get better production from their role players – Jeremy Price & Dustin Ware. Through two conference games, Price is 2 of 10 from the field with 4 total points; Ware is 4 of 16 from the field with 13 total points.
Now I’m not saying that Price and Ware should be scoring in double-figures every night, but they do need to score closer to their season averages for Georgia to be effective on offense (especially in game’s when Trey isn’t scoring – see Vandy). Price is netting 8.1 ppg and Ware is at 6.9 ppg – if they can contribute close to these numbers on Saturday I feel confident that Georgia can win.
This will be the second straight game for Georgia against an opponent that is coming off of a loss. On Thursday night, Mississippi lost to its in-state rival Mississippi State 69-64, making the Rebels 0-2 in SEC play. After Saturday’s game, Ole Miss goes on the road to Vanderbilt and then LSU. You had better believe that the Dawgs will have the Rebels full attention, as they will not want to drop their third straight conference game.
Before the loss in Nashville on Wednesday night, Georgia had not dropped a game since falling to the Temple Owls at the Old Spice Classic back in November.
How will Mark Fox’s team deal with coming off of a loss?
Tip-off is at 5:00pm EST and the game will be televised on the Fox Sports Network.