November 24, 2010

Hoop Dawgs have tough task ahead

When Mark Fox peruses the starting lineup for Notre Dame he doesn't necessarily like what he sees.

Not only do the undefeated Fighting Irish (4-0) boast one of the more experienced teams the Bulldogs will face all year when the two squads tangle Thursday in Kissimmee, Fla., Notre Dame is also one of the biggest with four starters at 6-foot-8.

"They've got great size and they're great shooters," Fox said. "Their starting lineup has five seniors and four of those guys are 6-8. We're going to have our hands full."

Action tips off at 7 p.m. in H.P Field House. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.

Notre Dame won't be the only tough competition the Bulldogs (3-0) figure to face in the Old Spice Classic, which runs through Sunday afternoon.

The Bulldogs will play either Temple or Cal in their second game on Friday. Boston College, Wisconsin, Manhattan and Texas A&M round out the rest of the field.

Each game will be televised either on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

"Not only will this tournament give us the opportunity to play some really good teams, but it's going to add to our strength of schedule, not to mention some national exposure, so there are a lot of great things to it," Fox said. "For the kids it's a chance to experience a special event. It can do a lot of great things for us."

Of course, Fox would feel a bit better if star forward Trey Thompkins had recovered enough from his ankle sprain to play a contributing role.

Tuesday, Thompkins was able to get in some light workouts, his first since the Oct. 30 injury, but it remains unclear how much, if any, the 6-foot-11 star will be able to play this weekend.

"Trey obviously wants to get back, the key is to get him healthy because it's really a long year," Fox said. "If there's ever any question we won't let him practice unless he's healthy enough to do so and he won't play until he's healthy enough to do so. There have been three or four days when he's made great progress, then he's plateaued for a couple of days, then made really good progress again. It's just a matter of him being able to heal, our team continuing to play and we hope we get him back and get him back soon."

Thompkins isn't the only Bulldog still feeling some pain.

Junior Connor Nolte broke his nose in Georgia's 61-59 win over Saint Louis and will have to wear a protective mask during this weekend's game and likely for much longer after that.

According to Fox, Nolte will have surgery once the team returns from Orlando and will stay in the mask for an undetermined amount of time.

Despite the injuries, Georgia comes into Thursday's contest 3-0 for the first time since 2007-08 and during the tourney will have a chance to equal the program's best start in 15 years (5-0).

Granted, it hasn't been easy.

The Bulldogs have come from behind to win all three games to date. They've yet to lead at halftime thus far and have trailed inside the final five minutes in each game. Most recently, they prevailed Saturday at Saint Louis after trailing the Billikens by as many as 14 points in the second half.

"We've had three games, really good games and I hope they will help us down the road. There hasn't been any garbage time," Fox said. "We've had 120 minutes of competitive games and especially without Trey, and now that we will limit Connor in practice, we're getting thin up there. But we've had some battles and hopefully that will prove advantageous."

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