February 21, 2012

Old friends set to meet

They remain best of friends, and Georgia coach Mark Fox figures they always will be.

But when Georgia tangles with LSU and Fox bud Trent Johnson Wednesday night (7 p.m.) in Baton Rouge, all those warm fuzzy feelings the two have for one another will be put on a 40-minute hold, or at least for the time it takes to plays the game.

"During the game, it won't be an issue," Fox said before practice Tuesday afternoon. "We'll just try to beat each other's brains in, but it's hard to play people that are family."

By now, their story is a familiar one to basketball fans in the SEC.

The two worked together as assistants at Washington in the early 1990s, and later when Johnson was tabbed the head coach at Nevada and Fox served as his top assistant.

Later, Fox succeeded Johnson at Nevada where he continued the success at the WAC school after his long-time bud took over the top job at Stanford.

Last year, it was the Bulldogs who got the better of LSU, winning 73-53 in Athens.

But this time, the tables look to be turned.

At 16-10 overall, 6-6 in the SEC, the Tigers are in the position Georgia was in this time a year ago, while LSU was the young team, struggling to find its way.

"Before he coached his first game at LSU, he said 'we'll be good this year, then we'll be terrible for two and then we'll start getting better, so exactly what he predicted is coming true," Fox said. "I will probably bet the house on the fact that they got things in order in their locker room, with accountability on and off the court and now they're starting to have success."

Fox was asked what, if anything, he told Johnson about his current Bulldog team.

"He probably this team better than did because he coached against them," Fox said. "He told me you got your hands full for a while, but I knew that."

It's certainly been a trying year for Georgia (12-14, 3-9).

Losers of two straight, the Bulldogs find themselves just one game ahead of last-place South Carolina in the SEC standings, but Johnson said Tuesday his team won't be taking their visitors for granted.

"It's the next game on the schedule; but make no mistake about it. I know how important the game is for him, just as I know how important it is for me," Johnson said. "Yes, we do spend a lot of time together, but it is just another game on the schedule. He's got a job to do just like do to get our team ready. That said, he's somebody I've got a lot of respect for."

NOTES: Wednesday's game will be televised on the SEC Network with Dave Baker and Joe Dean Jr. calling the action. … Gerald Robinson Jr.'s recent outstanding play has caused him to overtake freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the team scoring leading at 14.1 points per game. … Caldwell-Pope leads the Bulldogs in minutes (32.2 mpg), defensive rebounds (95), steals (45), shots taken (323) and 3-pointers taken (184). He's had the biggest impact by a Bulldog freshman since 2005, when Sundiata Gaines led Georgia in minutes and assists while finishing second in scoring.