February 24, 2010

Fox looking forward to first trip to Vandy

Yes, Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym is one of the more unusual settings in all of college basketball.

With its raised floor and fact that both benches are located on opposite baselines, it takes some getting used to, especially for coaches and players seeing it for the first time.

The Commodores' unusual facility is just one of the aspects that have Bulldog coach Mark Fox a bit concerned as his team prepares for Thursday night's game in Nashville.

But he joked Wednesday the site for his team's upcoming tilt against No. 16 Vanderbilt doesn't begin to hold a candle to the one he once played as a youngster growing up in Kansas.

"Liberal Kansas has a gym; I was in junior high. The corners are cut off and there's a pole in the middle," Fox recalled. "There's not even a rectangular floor. I've been in some odd places, about 14 years old when that happened."

Still, Fox said he's looking forward to his first trip to Nashville.

"Having never coached in a place where you're coaching on the baseline; that's a unique challenge as a coach," Fox said. "It's just one those things. It wanted to coach in Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas University) when I was a kid, I did that. I wanted to coach in Madison Square Garden and I was able to do that. I think it will be fun."

Fox hopes the Commodores will be a hospitable host.

It's been nine years since the Bulldogs (12-13, 4-8) have swept Vanderbilt (29-6, 9-3), but Georgia at least has a shot to end that skid by virtue of its 72-58 decision over the Commodores in Athens on Feb. 6.

But he knows beating the Commodores on their unique home court won't be easy, not to mention Georgia is still looking for its first SEC road victory of the year in seven previous attempts.

However, Fox is trying to remain confident.

"It's 94 feet; it's 10-foot goals. It's like Hoosiers. It's probably not as different as you might think because every arena is different in its backdrop with different types of fans, some more intense than others," Fox said. "From a playing standpoint, I don't know how different it is, but from coaching on the baseline, it's a lot different."

Junior Chris Barnes remembers what his first impressions were like.

"I thought that was the weirdest place I've ever been because the benches are at the end of the court and it's up high," Barnes said. "I'd never been in a place like that."

On-court communication can be a bear.

"It's real tough, that's why we set up a system where we've got calls for certain plays because it's going to be very tough to talk," Barnes added.

Hearing your coach at the opposite end of the floor can be next to impossible. Barnes was asked if that could sometimes be a good thing.

"Sometimes it is," he joked. "That's why we've got Dustin (Ware) and Ricky (McPhee) to be the leaders on the court."

Fox rolled his eyes when told what Barnes had to say.

"Our players … Do they listen to me anyway? I don't know," Fox said. "Seriously, I don't know. I guess we'll find out if they've been listening."

Thursday's game marks the first of what's going to be a busy three days for the Bulldogs.

After the contest against the Commodores, Georgia returns home Saturday for a crucial against arch-rival Florida, which will have had three extra days to prepare since beating Tennessee 75-62 Tuesday night in Gainesville.

The scheduling quirk is due to the SEC's new TV deal with the new SECTV Network, but forces every team in the league to cycle in a Thursday-Saturday tilt at least once during the course of the season. But Fox isn't complaining.

"I'm probably a little different because other people in the league have brought that up," Fox said. "For the last nine years I was at a league where we went Thursday-Saturday every week so it's a setup that I've been accustomed to. Sure, Florida is going to have more prep time than we are. But it's late in the year and we should know what we're doing by this point. It's a tradeoff I think we all will welcome."

Georgia at No. 16 Vanderbilt

WHERE: Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville Tenn.

WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.

RECORDS: Georgia 12-13, 4-8; No. 16 Vanderbilt 20-6, 9-3.

TV: ESPNU

RADIO: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network

NEXT GAME: Saturday, Florida, 4 p.m.

NOTES: The win over Alabama matched Geor-gia's overall victory total from last season and surpassed its SEC win total. The biggest difference in this comparison is the difficulty in the respective schedules. The 2009 slate was rated the 74th most difficult among 347 DiviŽsion I schools. The current schedule is rated the 11th toughest in the country, the highest rating for a Georgia schedule since the 2001 & 2003 slates that were listed No. 1 nationally. … With two chances remaining on the schedule, the Bulldogs are still seeking their first win in a true road game this season. Thursday, they'll do so in a venue that has yielded little success over the years. Though its last win at Memorial Gym was just four years ago, Georgia is 11-44 all-time against Vanderbilt there. … The entire Bulldog team, in fact, is a comŽparative juggernaut on offense during the SEC schedule. The Bulldogs' per-game scoring averŽage through 12 SEC games (70.3 ppg) is actuŽally 2.4 points higher than their overall average. That's a rarity indeed; not since 2001 has a Georgia team's final SEC-games average been higher than its final overall scoring average. Additionally, the Bulldogs lead the SEC in FG percentage, 3-point FG percentage and assists during the conference schedule. Last Saturday against Alabama, 19 of Georgia's 29 baskets were assisted (65%). The NCAA Statisticians Manual estimates that 50-60 percent of all field goals are assisted by a pass. … A couple of other stats that merit a mention: the 3-point shot is not the preferred weapon of choice for this Georgia team. In fact, the BullŽdogs don't average enough 3-pointers to qualify for national rankings in accuracy. However, the Bulldogs do lead the SEC in 3-point shooting in the SEC schedule, having made 63-for-161 (39 percent) in their 12 league games. … Trey Thompkins' current overall average of 17.6 points is the highest by a Georgia player in seven years, going back to Jarvis Hayes' mark of 18.3 in the 2003 season. Thompkins' comŽbined scoring & rebounding averages of 17.6 / 8.2 are the best by a Bulldog since Jumaine Jones posted 18.8 and 9.5 at the end of the 1999 season.

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