February 4, 2011

Bulldogs glad to be home

Mark Fox might want to consider firing his team's travel agent.

Just kidding, but as the Bulldogs (15-6, 4-4) get ready to host Auburn (8-14, 1-7) Saturday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum (1:47 p.m., SEC Network), Fox admits he couldn't be happier to be home.

Considering this week's odyssey simply to make it to Fayetteville for Wednesday's game against Arkansas, it's no wonder.

"Travel has been interesting, to say the least. Hard-fought games are to be expected and in the SEC East you have a lot of hard-fought battles," Fox said Friday. "You're going to win some and you're probably going to lose some. That's just league play and as a coach and a player, you're used to dealing with that. But I'm not going to lie, that travel, I'm not used to that."

Fox isn't kidding.

Heavy fog at Athens Ben-Epps Airport forced the Bulldogs to drive to Augusta Tuesday morning. But the Bulldogs' fun was just getting started.

After waiting almost two hours for a bus, the squad finally made it to Augusta only to learn that heavy storms had forced the airport in Fayetteville to close.

But it was just getting interesting.

"When we got on the plane, plan A was Fayetteville but that was ruled out. He (the pilot) says we can get to Little Rock, and I say, no, no, there are closer places than that. So the second plan was Fort Smith, so they worked to get clearance," Fox said. "In the process of waiting, Little Rock was ruled out because of weather there. When we finally got clearance to Fort Smith, then they had to file the paperwork. While that was being processed a thunderstorm rolled into Augusta and we were basically grounded. That was midnight."

So, it was back to a hotel in Augusta, before getting up the next morning and flying out to bitterly cold Fayetteville at 11 a.m. the day of game, which tipped off at 9 p.m.

"When we got off the plane I knew I wasn't in Georgia anymore," guard Dustin Ware laughed. "But it was a good experience. We had to battle through some things, get through some adversity. But I think it was good for the team."

This wasn't the Bulldogs' first encounter with Mother Nature this year.

Two days after a snowstorm dumped approximately seven inches of the white powder and ice on local highways, Georgia was forced to bus to Nashville for its Jan. 12 contest against Vanderbilt.

With weather still an issue, the Bulldogs then bussed to Oxford, Miss. where Georgia routed Ole Miss 98-76.

While Wednesday's 60-59 victory over the Razorbacks wasn't quite so pretty, Fox was certainly pleased with the result.

"I think that there's still room for this team to improve but what encourages me, is we continue to have the right approach to understand that we can get better, that we can learn from every experience," Fox said. "I think we've had a number of guys who have been able to make plays but I like the fact they don't feel like we've arrived."

That's just the mindset Fox wants his Bulldogs to have.

"I don't think there's any coach who doesn't think there's not a long list of things to be concerned about, but as I say the good thing is there is room for us to grow," Fox said. "The bad thing is there are things we're not doing well. I'm never pleased with how we defend. I don't think we've been as consistent taking care of the ball lately as we were earlier. I think Gerald, for instance, has got to get his assist-to-turnover ratio back on track and we've got to get Travis going. But overall, their approach pleases me."

NOTES: Fox said he has high hopes for Nick Marshall, who signed a football scholarship with the Bulldogs Wednesday, but will play basketball once his duties on the gridiron are complete. "Nick is a guy who can really shoot the ball. He's got a good IQ for the game and is obviously a terrific athlete. Coach (Mark) Richt when he had Charlie Ward at Florida State, the year that Charlie redshirted he just played basketball. We're going to have a great football team here and if Nick can join us in the middle of January, he can help our team and we're going to welcome that," Fox said. "If he chooses to redshirt one year, then we'll have those conversations with Coach Richt and Nick and see what we can work out. But he's coming to play football first and he's a great kid. We're glad he's coming to Georgia."… The Arkansas game was also Georgia's eighth contest this season that was decided on the final possession. The Bulldogs have won seven of those contests. As the second half of the league schedule begins Saturday, a victory would match Georgia's total of SEC wins from last season. … Saturday's contest is the 175th all-time meeting between these two schools in basketball. They've split the first 174 meetings right down the middle at 87 wins apiece. Georgia and Auburn met just once last season on Feb. 10 at Auburn. The Tigers controlled the game from its outset in posting an 82-63 victory. Auburn also won the 2009 meeting in Athens by a 71-59 margin.

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