March 1, 2013

Dawgs brace for hot Vols

Resilience is a word that's certainly become etched in the vocabulary of Mark Fox and the entire Georgia basketball team.

Especially, when you're talking about the Bulldogs' past four contests when some end-of-regulation shenanigans have caused Georgia to drop three of those games heading into Saturday afternoon's date against Tennessee (1:45 p.m., SEC Network).

"Over the course of the season, eventually you'd think the breaks will even out," Fox said before practice Thursday. "We've had four games in a row now that have come down to the final possession of regulation. This team has been pretty resilient and they're going to need to be resilient again."

Still, it's definitely been frustrating.

Some questionable officiating at the end of regulation in losses at Ole Miss and Arkansas were followed by a weird ending last Saturday against South Carolina, a game which the Bulldogs went on to win in overtime, 67-56.

Then came Wednesday night's game in Nashville when a Bulldog turnover in the final 25 seconds led to Vanderbilt hitting a shot with 0.8 seconds left, lifting the Commodores to a 63-62 win.

Against the Volunteers (17-10, 9-6), Fox just wants his team to worry about things it can control, although with all that's happened of late, he knows that might not be so easy.

"Against Ole Miss it probably wouldn't have changed a lot to replay that one as far as things we can control. Arkansas, probably wouldn't change a lot of things we can control. Against South Carolina, we were fortunate to come out on top," Fox said. "I probably would have done some things different (against the Gamecocks) even though we came out on top in that game. Then (Wednesday) we've got the ball and up one with 25 seconds to go and we did have a timeout, but didn't use it. I figured the best player would get to the line and make some foul shots, so it was just a tough break for our team but you've got to learn from those experiences and continue to use them to get better."

Which gets back to that question of resilience.

Saturday's game is the next-to-last home outingfor the Bulldogs, who only have three contests left before the SEC Tournament gets underway.

"You have no choice in life but to become that (resilient) if you are going to become successful. That's one of the things you hope athletics will teach you," Fox said. "You always worry, no matter the age of your team or the experience of your team if they're going to be ready every night."

The Bulldogs will need to be ready against the Vols, the hottest team in the SEC.

Since dropping a 68-62 decision to Georgia, Tennessee has reeled off six straight victories, including a 64-58 victory over Florida earlier this week.

"They're playing great. (Jamal) Stokes (12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds) is such a factor inside and that's opened things up so much for everybody else," Fox said. "They're playing with great confidence and I don't think they've lost since we played them. We're going to have to play extremely well. When we played there it's not a game where I thought we shot it well or defended very well; we'll have to both to win the way they're playing."

NOTES: Fox said that freshman guard Kenny Gaines will be a game-time decision after suffering a bone bruise in his foot. … Sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope enters this game averaging 17.7 points per game, which ranks second in the SEC. In fact, he ranks among the SEC leaders in nine of the 13 categories for which individual stats are compiled. … At halftime, Georgia will honor its first basketball All-American, Zippy Morocco, who earned the honor in 1953.