December 2, 2009

Dawgs start strong, finish off Billikens

After head coach Mark Fox got on their case for a recent series of slow starts, the Georgia basketball team decided to address the matter Wednesday night against visiting Saint Louis.

It was quite the response.

The Billikens didn't score a field goal until the 10:37 mark in the first half and cruised to a 64-56 win over Rick Majerus' squad before a Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 4,650.

"We beat a very sound basketball team. For as young as Saint Louis is, they really play a complete style of basketball. They execute offensively, they defend, they have high basketball IQs, but the key for us in the first half, our defense was terrific to start the game," Fox said. "Our defense was very, very good and that enabled us to build a lead. That allowed us to get some baskets in transition, relax, play with some confidence and play with a lead the whole night. That's a lot different than playing catch-up."

Indeed it was.

Georgia didn't trail the entire evening and led by as much as 20 in the second half before setting for the eight-point victory.

The Bulldogs held the Billikens to just 34.7 percent from the field (17-for-49).

Majerus said his team's inexperience (four sophomores and one freshman in the starting lineup) played a role in his team's slow start.

"When you're the youngest team in the country and you don't know how, or when, or who's going to score you don't play well," Majerus said. "I will say our effort was excellent - mental effort, not so much, but physically we tried hard. Georgia is just more talented and bigger at every spot but one."

Bulldog sophomore Trey Thompkins said the team took Fox's earlier words of wisdom to heart.

"We finally locked and played from the start," Thompkins said. "We were proud of each other for how aggressive we played and how we paid attention to Coach's game-plan."

Georgia tenacious defense payed huge dividends, particularly in the first half as Saint Louis shot just 25 percent (5-for-20).

"You've probably heard me say before but in this offense we want to be able to press and trap a lot, and tonight we thought we had an opportunity to do that," Fox said. "It worked pretty well for us for 14 minutes in the first half and then we got a little sloppy, a little fatigued and they started attacking it a little better and it really wasn't as good the rest of the game."

Dustin Ware led the Bulldogs (4-2) with 17 points, including 5-of-9 from the field (3-of-6 from three-point range).

He was one of five Georgia players in double-figures, a list that included Jeremy Price with 14, Thompkins with 12, Travis Leslie with 11 and Ricky McPhee with 10.

Kwamain Mitchell led Saint Louis (4-3) with 16 points, followed by Willie Reed with 14.

Afterwards, Majerus said he hopes the series against Georgia can continue.

"Georgia is a great institution and we're really happy to have this series. I talked with the President (Dr. Michael Adams) afterward and he's such a class act," Majerus said. "He's going to come up and see a Cardinals game in the spring … what a fine institution. We really hope we can extend this series beyond next year."

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