Dawgs set to rematch Gators in Athens on Wednesday

Whatever celebration the Georgia Bulldogs (7-10; 1-3) enjoyed following the win over LSU on Saturday night most likely ended when they peered at the schedule and noticed that the #7 Florida Gators were up next.

The Dawgs’ first contest with the Gators – a 77-44 drubbing in Gainesville – seemed horrific for UGA at the time, but looking at Florida’s SEC resume thus far it appears the beating was business as usual for the Gators. Florida (14-2; 4-0), who is easily the top team in the conference, might be the best team in all of college basketball right now.

Need proof? Check out the 83-52 whipping Coach Billy Donovan’s put on #17 Missouri last Saturday on ESPN3 in the “Replay” tab.

In the Missouri game, Florida employed the same full-court, relentless pressure that flabbergasted the Dawgs a few weeks ago. The Gators’ defense has been scary-good through their first four SEC games, holding opponents to a conference-best 48.8 points per night. In those same games, Florida’s average margin of victory has been nearly 27 points a game, also tops in the league. When looking at the Gators’ team statistics in conference play, it appears that they are either first or second in just about every category – field goal percentage, turnover margin, rebounding, assists, etc.

Georgia, on the other hand, can be found near the bottom of the list in nearly every aforementioned category. The biggest concern for Coach Mark Fox at this moment should be his team’s inability to take care of the basketball. Through four SEC games, UGA is now tied with Vanderbilt with 17.3 turnovers per game, which is worst in the league. In the first game between these two teams Georgia gave it away 19 times – if the Dawgs cannot become stronger with the ball then Wednesday night’s match-up could quickly evolve into another 30-point beat-down.

Georgia’s backcourt has got to start defending the perimeter better as well, since they are currently allowing SEC opponents to make nearly 43% of their three-point attempts (also worst in the conference). Florida, who is knocking down an SEC-best 8.8 three’s per game, canned 12 from beyond the arc the first time these teams met. The Dawgs cannot afford to allow the Gators to reel off big chunks of points from the outside with Georgia’s ongoing scoring issues.

Realistically, UGA needs to play a completely flawless game just to have a chance to hang around on Wednesday against the #7 team. Florida may not take the Dawgs too seriously, considering how badly they mistreated them down in Gainesville. If the Gators do sleepwalk into Athens, then maybe Georgia can keep themselves in the game.

One thing is for sure, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will need to be a lot more assertive this time against Florida than he was the last. In the O’Connell Center, KCP only put up one shot through the game’s first 12 minutes. By the time Pope reached the scoring column on a lay-up with 8:06 left in the first half, Georgia was already trailing 19-6.