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Post Hoops roundup: So far, so good

Monday November 22, 2010

It was the dark cloud to the silver lining of Mark Fox’s debut season last year: Georgia still couldn’t win a road game. Not even at Auburn. Going back several seasons, Georgia’s road woes have been beyond parody. So it’s no surprise that Saturday’s buzzer-beating win at St. Louis got a lot of Bulldog fans talking during the football bye weekend.

We shouldn’t kid ourselves that winning at St. Louis is anything like winning at Tennessee (or Ole Miss for that matter). But St. Louis was the opponent, and they were a quality early road test for a team learning how to play and win without Trey Thompkins. It looked as if it would be just another Georgia road game after the hosts took a 10-point lead into halftime. Georgia held St. Louis to just 22 second half points and had reduced their deficit to just one point with ten minutes left. St. Louis managed to pull back in front by six points but only scored four more over the last five minutes of the game. The Bulldogs had the final possession, and Gerald Robinson handled the situation with a lot of composure. With the clock winding down, Robinson drove, drew the defense, and delivered a nice pass to an open Jeremy Price under the basket in the final second for the game-winner.

The one big area of concern from the St. Louis game was bench play: Georgia got only two points from its reserves. Some of that’s to be expected: we’re talking about a number of young guys getting their first road experience. Still, the lack of much bench production put a ton of pressure on the starters, and the Dawgs got just enough from their first five. Four Bulldog starters ended up in double-figures with Travis Leslie’s 19 leading the way. Jeremy Price continued an impressive start to the season with 16 points.

The win in St. Louis improves Georgia to 3-0. All three wins have had their moments of anxiety, but they’ve also provided useful experience for those conference games that always seem to come down to the wire. The team is learning how to play, and win, close games. They’re doing it without their leading scorer. In the case of the Colorado game, they had to find a way to close out a game without Travis Leslie too.

We’ll soon find out if that experience can pay off against tougher competition. Georgia heads to Orlando this week for the Old Spice Classic. The tournament features eight programs that should be familiar to any basketball fan, and Georgia will face three of them throughout the weekend. They open with Notre Dame on Thursday (7:00 p.m., ESPN2), and the opponents and times for games on Friday and Sunday will be determined by the bracket. All games should be on ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU.

Lady Dogs also improve to 3-0

Andy Landers marked 1,000 games as Georgia’s coach on Friday night, but visiting Chattanooga . Chattanooga, a perennial contender in the Southern Conference, tested Georgia’s perimeter defense by hitting 13 three-pointers. The visitors led as late as the final two minutes of the first half. The Lady Dogs gained control of the game with a 25-9 run in the second half and opened up a 71-53 lead with eight minutes left. Georgia cooled off and scored only six points in the final six minutes, but it was enough to emerge with a 79-69 win.

The Lady Dogs rebounded from Friday’s shaky start with their best performance of the young season with an 84-51 rout of Indiana on Sunday. Jasmine James helped Georgia control the game from the opening tip by scoring all but three of her 21 points in the first half. James might have easily gone for 30, but she began to get her teammates involved. Before exiting the game midway through the second half, James had a team-high 21 points and 7 assists. Anne Marie Armstrong and Jasmine Hassell joined James in double figures, and all ten Lady Bulldogs played and scored in the game.

Georgia will see their first action away from Stegeman Coliseum this week as they head to the west coast for three games. They’ll face USC on Tuesday night, and then they’ll participate in a Thanksgiving tournament at Loyola Marymount.

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