January 11, 2008

Staying the course

Georgia basketball coach Dennis Felton will readily admit that his Bulldogs' season hasn't gone exactly as planned.

No kidding.

When the team began preseason drills in October, senior Takais Brown and junior Mike Mercer were still part of the program. So was sophomore Rashaad Singleton, who despite his on-court issues, was still an integral part of the team.

However, as Georgia (9-4, 0-0) prepares to open the SEC portion of its schedule at 2:05 this afternoon at Mississippi State (10-5, 1-0), the following question was posed to Felton: Have the losses forced a shift in the way the Bulldogs play?

"Not at all," Felton said. "Despite the losses, there was not a need to change the way we play. It just meant that we were going to be younger team, a more inexperienced team because we were going to have to rely on freshmen rather than a senior in Takais and a junior in Mike.
"But we're still playing the same way we've always played. We might not be as forceful and efficient offensively as we could have been, but we haven't had to adjust the way we play."

Freshman forward Jeremy Price has certainly made his presence felt for the Bulldogs, coming off Wednesday's 79-72 win over Georgia Tech.

Since cracking the starting lineup, Price is tied for third on the team in scoring at 9.2 points per game and second in rebounding at 4.8 boards per contest.

Point guard Zach Swansey and shooting guard Troy Brewer have continued to make huge nightly contributions, while forward Cliff Barnes needs to keep gaining consistency, something Felton is confident will occur.

More help may soon be on the way.

The Bulldogs are on the verge of getting back Jeremy Jacob. The 6-7 forward suffered a stress fracture in his left foot during early December action. He dressed for the Bulldogs' game against Georgia Tech on Wednesday and could be available for duty in Starkville, according to the team doctor and trainer. Jacob was averaging 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in almost 15 minutes before the injury.

"That would be huge. Jeremy has been pretty good from Day One as an inside scorer," Felton said. "He still needs to improve his defense, but with his athleticism and the way he goes about rebounding, I feel he'll be on his way."

Meanwhile, senior guard Sundiata Gaines is on his way to a spot in the Bulldog record book.

Gaines has a realistic chance to crack the school's top 10 in career rebounding. He enters the MSU game with 547 career boards and, projecting his average of 5.4, he could end up between 650 and 700. John Johnson, a forward at Georgia from 1959-61, is the schoolıs No. 10 all-time rebounder with 684 rebounds.

Among the existing list of leaders, Gaines is by far the shortest of them at 6-1. Finally, were there a list of all-time leaders of minutes played at Georgia, Gaines would surely be a candidate to shatter the record by season's end. He enters tonight's game having already logged 3,170 minutes over 102 career games.

NOTES: The visiting Bulldogs arrive at this contest with a 9-4 overall record. Most recently, they concluded their pre-conference schedule with a 79-72 win over in-state rival Georgia Tech in Athens three nights ago. … As it has for the past three weeks, Georgia continues to be led in scoring by junior guard Billy Humphrey. The product of Dacula is averaging 14.2 points per game, coming off consecutive nights (24 vs. Gonzaga, 23 vs. Ga. Tech) in which he pumped in over 20 points. That's a personal "first" for the sharpshooting native Chicagoan (he moved to Dacula in the 9th grade.). Humphrey has found offensive prosperity despite an ailing left knee that has dogged him throughout the season. An MRI exam earlier this week showed that he has "chondromalacia," commonly known as "runner's knee," a condition for which rest is the normal remedy. … Georgia begins its 16-game journey through the SEC at a venue that has yielded few positive results. Bulldog teams have won just once in Starkville (2002) since the league was pared into East and West divisions, a win that was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions. Aside from that game, Georgiaıs last taste of success there was a 3-game winning streak from 1989-91. In these two teamsı only meeting last year, Georgia posted a badly-needed 86-73 win on Feb. 24 in Athens. It was the Dogs' 17th win of the 2007 season.

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