February 8, 2013

Dawgs go for five straight

There are undoubtedly those who will point to the recent level of competition as the main reason Georgia enters Saturday afternoon's game against visiting Texas A&M (5 p.m., ESPNU) on a season-best four-game winning streak.

But it's not quite as simple as that.

The Bulldogs (11-11, 5-4) are actually beginning to get some offensive contributions from players not named Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and now have four players - Charles Mann, Nemanja Djurisic, Vincent Williams, along with Pope - who have led Georgia in scoring.

Couple that with the fact the Bulldogs are also getting some added offensive help from players like Kenny Gaines, who has scored 11 and 12 points, respectively, in Georgia's most recent wins over South Carolina and Tennessee.

"The team is stepping up. Besides me, we've had five or six guys score the ball and that's helped us out a lot during some big situations," Caldwell-Pope said. "If I can't score the ball, other people have shown they can and that's part of why we've won four in a row."

After averaging 25.2 points his senior year at Whitefield Academy, Gaines attributes his recent success to finally becoming at ease with the team's offensive system.

"Earlier in the year I was rushing a lot of shots, because coming out of high school I was real impact scorer. I feel like I tried to rush a lot of shots, but now I'm being a little bit more patient and things are opening up," he said. "Early in the season I was a little stubborn with that, I kind of had a hard head. But I just started looking at those guys, how they were getting easy baskets and after a while started to get more comfortable."

Head coach Mark Fox didn't argue with that.

"Oh, Kenny is very hardheaded. Our team is one that has to learn things the hard way and he's just hard-headed enough where he's got to learn that way, too," Fox said. "But the key is he's learning and really starting to improve his game."

Although the offense has done more to chip in to the cause, it's been the play of the defense that continues to be the Bulldogs' strength.

Georgia comes into Saturday's game against the Aggies (14-8, 4-5) ranked fifth in scoring defense (61.4 points per game) while opponents are shooting just 39.8 percent from the field (third best in the SEC).

"We didn't win the other night (against Tennessee) because of our defense, but before that our defense has been terrific for three or four games in a row," Fox said. "It was not the other night, but we have been very good defensively and the other night it was our offense that enabled us to win."

Fox credits his team's versatility for that.

In 22 games, Georgia has used 12 different starting lineups.

"We have a lot of versatile parts and really before we lost Marcus (Thornton), we had a really dynamic defensive lineup that we could put together. (John) Florveus, (Tim) Dixon and Donte (Williams) are very mobile big players who can cover away from the goal and Charles, Kenny, Kentavious and Brandon are all long, athletic guys," Fox said. "We just cover ground pretty well and we're starting to recognize situations defensively that we were not early. I've said it before, our freshmen were killing us defensively, but those guys have really improved and therefore made our defense more stable."

It's also made for a deeper bench with more options to use.

"That's one of the things that we really tried to establish, to have some depth because with 18 league games, no bye-week, it's going to be important to have some depth and we've tried," Fox said. "The other night, we were exhausted, so I think we played 10 guys in the first five or six minutes and were able to battle through it. We felt that might be a slight advantage at some point this time of the year."

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