Signs of maturity can be measured in various ways.
In the case of the Georgia basketball team, it's learning how to play with a lead. Despite the Bulldogs' 7-2 record, that's been somewhat of a problem.
Against an unheralded Arkansas State squad, Georgia built a 21-point lead only to the see the Red Wolves whittle it to seven before Mark Fox's squad settled for a 68-59 win.
There have been other instances.
On Nov. 5, Georgia led Notre Dame 37-25 at the half only to see the Irish rally back to win in double OT. Recently the Bulldogs enjoyed an 11-point advantage over UAB before hanging onto a 2-point victory.
"We were able to see the tape and we made some poor decisions with the ball and lost a sense of urgency on the defensive end," Fox said Monday. "But we were able to address it and hopefully we will address it if happens again. I'd like to get in that position again to see how we've grown."
Junior Trey Thompkins hopes it's soon.
"We're really still learning each other," Thompkins said. "We're working every day to reach our potential and we're working every day to reach our potential as fast we can because we know how tough the SEC schedule is going to be."
But among the many lessons Fox has taught his team in his first two years on the job, not looking ahead is one of the more important ones.
After Tuesday's contest, the Bulldogs travel to Macon Thursday to take on Mercer. After a short break for Christmas, Georgia returns home Dec. 28 against Charleston Southern and Dec. 31 against Eastern Kentucky.
"That's just what coach teaches us - one game at time," Thompkins said. "We're not looking to get too high and we're not looking to get too low. We know we've got a job to do if we want to make it into the tournament."
But first, Fox wants to see his Bulldogs play a complete game, beginning with Tuesday's 7 p.m. contest against High Point (3-6).
Since joining Division I in 1999-2000, the Panthers have played nine games against Southeastern Conference teams - all on the road - and are searching for their first win. HPU's last matchup with an SEC opponent was a 75-54 loss to Auburn last season. The Tigers used a 24-3 run in the second 10 minutes of the game to bury the Panthers, although HPU outscored Auburn 36-35 in the second half. That was the first time HPU ever outscored an SEC team in a half of basketball.
Nick Barbour led HPU in scoring for the sixth time this season and 39th time in his career against Wofford. Barbour scored 18 points and had a season-high four assists and three steals. He has scored at least 10 points in 15 straight games. He leads HPU with 16.8 points per game.
NOTES: Georgia aims for its fifth consecutive win Tuesday night. The Bulldogs improved to 7-2 on the season last Saturday with a 68-59 victory over Arkansas State. Georgia hasn't strung together five wins in succession since the 2007 season.
The 9-point margin Saturday seemed like a blowout in a season full of close games thus far. It was the largest since Georgia's win over Colorado in the second game of the season on Nov. 16. The Bulldogs' 21-point lead in the second half was their largest of the season so far. That game also was just the second time this season only one player has played over 30 minutes.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of the Arkansas State win was that Georgia handed out at least 20 assists for the second straight game, and that its Assist/Turnover ratio was overwhelmingly positive (20/12).
The Bulldogs wrap up their pre-Christmas slate of games with a Thursday night contest at Mercer. It will be their third true road game of the season thus far, and it will be Georgia's first time playing at Mercer since Dec. 3, 1994.
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