Georgia at Kentucky Preview: Bulldogs try to stay positive
WHERE: Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m.
RECORDS: Georgia 5-9, 0-1; Kentucky 11-3, 1-1
TV/RADIO: SEC Network (Kevin Fitzgerald, Dane Bradshaw); Georgia Bulldog Radio Network (Scott Howard, Chuck Dowdle, Adam Gillespie)
Tom Crean is well aware of the challenges that face his Georgia basketball team. He knows the road ahead will be hard to navigate.
That certainly figures to be the case when the Bulldogs play their first SEC road game Saturday afternoon at Kentucky (6 p.m., SEC Network).
“You either deal well with your back against the wall, or you get shoved through the wall, one or the other. I know that sounds corny, but that's the truth,” Crean said. “That's exactly how I coach and exactly how I want my team to play. We're going to keep going forward with it. They are getting better. It would be hard to say some guys aren't getting better. We certainly don't have the record the last few weeks to show for it, but we are improving, and we'll get there.”
Georgia is coming off a tough game against Texas A&M, losing on a three-point shot with just 1.2 seconds to play.
Graduate guard Aaron Cook said it will be imperative for the team to at least believe the victories will eventually come.
“That’s something that we’re trying to preach right now. It’s just to believe we can win. I told the guys, ‘We have the pieces on this team to win.’ A lot of people might not think so, but we have enough on this team to win,” Cook said. “Even though we didn’t pull it out (Tuesday), we were right in position to win. People can doubt us, but we competed and just fell a bit short.”
Saturday’s game in Lexington will of course be a huge challenge for the Bulldogs, losers of three of their past four.
It also marks the first time Georgia will face former Bulldog Sahvir Wheeler, who transferred to Kentucky at the end of last year.
"I think we'll be fine,” Kario Oquendo said. “I think we just got to follow the game plan and listen to our coaches, and we'll be fine."
Whatever happens against the Wildcats, if the Bulldogs want to have any shot, they’ll need to get off to a better start.
Slow beginnings have been the bane for Georgia, it seems, all season. Tuesday’s loss to Texas A&M was another example after the Bulldogs fell behind by 18 points before rallying back to give themselves a chance to win the game.
“We hadn’t played a team that runs the passing lanes like that and tries to get up and pressure like that on defense. So once we made the adjustments, we kept saying in the locker room, ‘Fight, compete, next play,’” Cook said. “We have the right mindset going forward right now, and I think this team is going to go to the next level right now for that reason. I think this team is on the right path, and even though it didn’t fall our way tonight, I think in the future it will be a different story.”
Crean certainly hopes so.
“I mean, there are so many things I don't care about. What I do care about is how much better we get every day, and not allowing distractions, disappointments, and discouragement and all those kind of things to enter into us,” Crean said. “I want us to understand there are a lot of things we can control and get better with, and that's what we have to stay with.”