Something special will be on the line when LSU (9-5; 0-3) and Georgia (6-10; 0-3) meet inside Stegeman Coliseum tonight – a conference win.
Neither the Tigers nor the Dawgs have enjoyed their respective SEC schedules thus far, so there may be an air of desperation between these teams in Athens later today as one of them is guaranteed to leave the gym a winner.
Conference play – especially within a power conference like the SEC – can really change the complexity of a team mid-season, and often times it separates the real players from the guys that aren’t quite ready yet. Many teams around the country – not Georgia, of course – enjoy inflated offensive numbers prior to January as the majority of the squads that they face tend to be weaker opponents.
Prior to January 9th, LSU looked as if they might be something of an offensive juggernaut, pouring in over 77 points per game, with four players averaging in double-figures. However, since the start of SEC play the Tigers’ offensive has derailed, posting just 62.7 points a night.
To be fair, UGA is scoring only 55.7 points per conference game – the lowest output in the league.
LSU’s leading scorer – junior Shavon Coleman – was getting 14 points per game through the team’s first 11 contests. His performances in LSU’s three SEC games have been less desirable as Coleman has struggled to score only 7 points a night.
Sophomore point guard Anthony Hickey has been the Tigers’ most dangerous offensive weapon lately, netting almost 16 points per game in conference play. Georgia’s Vincent Williams, who is coming off a career-best 23-point performance at Missouri, will most likely be challenged by Coach Mark Fox to chase Hickey around the court this evening.
The Dawgs (plus Gerald Robinson, Jr.) lost 61-53 to nearly this same LSU team in Baton Rouge last season. In that game, Georgia failed to contain guard Andre Stringer, who sank 4 three-pointers and finished with 18 points. The Dawgs also had trouble handling big man Johnny O’Bryant III in the paint, where he tallied 14 points and 8 boards.
Both of these Bayou Bengal Tiger players will be in Athens tonight, and Georgia has got to find a way to deal with “Johnny O” as he is quite the imposing figure inside at 6’9″ and 262 pounds. O’Bryant is scoring 10.4 ppg this season, though he too has yet to break through in a conference game, accumulating just 18 total points in three games.
Next week’s schedule does not look promising for Georgia – they play Florida at home on Wednesday and then the Dawgs hit the road Saturday to take on Texas A&M in College Station.
A loss to LSU tonight would put this UGA team on a path that most likely ends with the Dawgs being 0-6 in their first six SEC tries.
Despite their slow start, with a 9-5 record the Tigers still have an opportunity to turn their season around.
Georgia’s current situation does not appear to have as much of a silver lining other than the hope that these next 15 games will provide valuable experience to the Dawgs’ younger players.
The last time a UGA basketball team began its conference slate 0-4 was the 2008-2009 season – that team actually got to 0-9 before nabbing a victory, finishing SEC play at 3-13. It was also the last season for coach Dennis Felton, who was fired mid-year after an embarrassing loss at Florida.