February 5, 2010

Fox hopes to cure woes on defensive end

Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox sounded a bit like Bulldog football coach Mark Richt when breaking down Wednesday night's loss to Arkansas.

The Bulldogs - who entertain Vanderbilt Saturday night at 8 p.m. - saw a 15-point half-halftime lead evaporate in the final 20 minutes, a defeat Fox blamed on his team's failure to execute on the defensive end.

Georgia (9-11, 1-6) wound up dropping the contest by a mere 72-68 score, a loss that still had Fox shaking his head prior to practice Friday afternoon.

"We're not the quickest and most athletic in certain areas, but we have to improve defensively," Fox said. "We're kind of a like a team in football that's playing defense against a team that runs the ball for four quarters. In the fourth quarter, you may not see the result of all those runs until the fourth quarter when that defense starts to wear down and our lack of depth has kind of put us in that situation."

Finding a way to correct the problem hasn't been easy.

A more effective bench would certainly help.

Starters Ricky McPhee, Dustin Ware, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie have been averaging approximately 36 minutes apiece, and in the grueling SEC, Fox concedes the grind is taking a toll.

"When the season started we were concerned if we could be offensive enough to compete and we found a group that's been able to give us some offense, but with that formula, we had great concerns of what kind of depth we had at either end," Fox said. "It's something we unfortunately saw something but obviously it hasn't been something we've been able to correct."

With the exception of a 87-71 loss to Florida, Georgia's other five conference defeats have been by a combined total of 20 points.

That's a fact that hasn't been lost on senior Albert Jackson.

"It's frustrating, but it's also motivating to go out there and try to fix things," Jackson said. "It's the little mistakes that are beating us, not like we're making a bunch of big ones. It's the little things that are keeping us from winning and that's the most frustrating thing when it comes to winning games and not winning games."

Fox admitted he often wonders the impact transfer guard Gerald Robinson would have had if he had not been subject to the NCAA's transfer rules.

His answer may surprise you.

"If we had for instance if we had Gerald Robinson and he did not have to sit out we would have five, six or seven more wins," Fox said. "That's a lot to put on one kid, but we've had a lot of single possession or two possession outcomes where an experienced, a guard with some quickness and some athleticism , the ability to score and beak down a defense, would make a huge difference in our team, but the reality is we don't have him for another year."

Robinson, who started both his years at Tennessee State, averaged 15.2 points as a freshman and 17.8 as a sophomore, going over the 1,000-point mark in his season finale at the school.

He led the Tigers in every major statistical category his sophomore season.

"We know we have a player that practices with us every day, who will be on our team next year and not have to learn everything that will make a huge impact for us," Fox said. "We're very optimistic about what he can do for us. We've got some key pieces to this team who are still very young."

Until then, Fox said he and his Bulldogs will do what they can do to try and make sure the mistakes that hurt the team Wednesday won't repeat themselves against the Commodores.

Fortunately, Fox said his players seem to be staying positive.

"They've been very resilient, but they were so hungry for a new start and that's been one thing that's kept them coming back," Fox said. "They've made an investment, but they need to continue to invest and rebuilding this program. Every night you've got to show up and see what you can make happen."

No. 20 at Vanderbilt at Georgia

WHERE: Stegeman Coliseum

WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m.

RECORDS: Georgia 9-11, 1-6, Vanderbilt 17-4, 6-1.

TV: FSN South

RADIO: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network

NOTES: The 2010 SEC schedule reaches its midČpoint when Georgia entertains Vanderbilt in a Saturday night contest at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs arrive at this game with a 9-11 overall record, 1-6 in SEC games. Most reČcently, they dropped yet another close decision, 72-68 at home to Arkansas three nights ago. In five of their six SEC losses, the Bulldogs have either led or been within a single possession of the lead during the final minute of play. … In the current RPI ratings, Georgia's schedČule is rated as the 13th most difficult among all 347 Division I programs. Of the 24 opponents on that schedule, Vanderbilt represents the second-best RPI rating at 12, second only to Kentucky's rating of 6. The Bulldogs have two wins vs. teams with RPIs of 25 or better (TenČnessee & Ga. Tech), and one other against a Top 100 team (Illinois). … The last time these two programs met was on this Stegeman Coliseum court last FebruČary 25. The Bulldogs posted a 61-57 victory that day, the second of three SEC victories that Georgia had last season. First-year coach Mark Fox has never faced Vanderbilt in his six-year head coaching career. … These two teams will complete their regular-season series five games from tonight when they play a Thursday night contest in Nashville on Feb. 25.

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