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Could Braelen Bridges be the key to fixing Georgia's defense?

Noah Baumann knows all the Bulldogs need to step it up on the defensive end.

Georgia has lost five straight and allowed 84.8 points per game to its opponents over that span. That type of performance can't be placed on any one player's shoulders.

But in transfer Braelen Bridges, Baumann sees a player who has the potential to right some of Georgia's defensive wrongs.

"He can do so much more for the team," Baumann said. "He’s really good already, but I can see him as being an all-SEC type big. I think he’s really, really good. I want him to be really, really good. I’m always motivating him. I know all the coaches are, the managers are. I’m just trying to rip it out of him, because he’s a really good big."

Georgia basketball player Braelen Bridges (23) during a game against Jacksonville at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles/UGA Sports Communications)
Georgia basketball player Braelen Bridges (23) during a game against Jacksonville at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles/UGA Sports Communications)

Bridges has started all 16 games for the Bulldogs this season. He's averaging 12 points and six rebounds per game.

But Baumann sees potential in Bridges to be so much more. In a league where interior defense is vital, Bridges has all the pieces to be that kind of player.

"When he’s on everything, when he’s moving around and talking, we can all hear him—and him being an anchor, we will be so much better defensively," Baumann said. "Not saying he’s doing anything wrong. We all have room for improvement."

Georgia assistant coach Steve McClain agreed. He and the rest of the Georgia staff prepare each night for explosive guards who can get to the bucket.

Every night, McClain said, the defense is giving something to opponents. Against Kentucky, for example, the Bulldogs were giving open jumpshots to Wildcat bigs in order to help on Kentucky guard TyTy Washington.

"We’ve got to be able to change," McClain said. "I think as Braelen’s gotten more comfortable, he definitely can anchor the middle of that and our ball screen defense and really be a presence in there for us."

The onus is anything but solely on Bridges. It's on all the Bulldogs, who enter Saturday night's home meeting with Vanderbilt looking for their first SEC victory.

"I can tell you that spirits are high" Baumann said. "We work so hard in practice that we deserve to win. Nobody is thinking, holding their heads low or nothing like that. We’re a confident group."

Saturday night's game will be televised on ESPN2.