January 25, 2013

Thornton has been missed

No, Marcus Thornton didn't provide a lot of help as offensive production, but in regards of what he provided on defense, he's been sorely missed.

Head coach Mark Fox explained why that's been the case.

"When we had Marcus, he was a terrific defender and rebounder at a couple of different positions," Fox said Friday. "He could defend the inside and outside and now without him, that puts a lot of pressure on Brandon (Morris) who is an inexperienced defender. So we miss Marcus greatly, probably as much as we've ever missed him since he's been hurt."

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs - who travel to Texas A&M Saturday in College Station (6 p.m., FSN) - it doesn't appear Thornton will be back anytime soon.

The former Westlake High star underwent his third knee surgery just over a month ago and Fox said there's still no timetable for his return.

Georgia (7-11, 1-4) could certainly use Thornton's defensive prowess against the Aggies (12-6, 2-3), who will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak after dropping a 58-54 decision at LSU on Saturday.

The Bulldogs count the Tigers as their lone SEC victory to date, but A&M should by no means be considered a pushover.

Two weeks ago, the Aggies went up to Lexington and stunned Kentucky 83-71 behind a 40-point effort by senior guard Elston Turner.

"LSU's press bothered A&M a little bit, it bothered Florida and it bothered us, so I think LSU's style is something that's working for them," Fox said. "But they (Texas A&M have a good team. To watch his game at Kentucky, to get 40 at Rupp Arena when the other team knows you're trying to score, it was impressive to watch. He's a real talent and obviously one of the keys to their team but he's not the Long Ranger. Their frontline guys are big and physical and finish plays so it's a team I think that's just continuing to evolve."

So are the Bulldogs.

Georgia stunned the Gators on Saturday by jumping out to a 27-24 halftime lead before Florida roared back with a 40-point second half to win 64-47.

"Our defense was so good in the first half and as every coach will do, they adjusted and our defense didn't react quick enough and so we let (Erik) Murphy get loose a little bit and they just shot the three so well," Fox said. "They're a very explosive team and when we lost the lead, we just had a hard time trying to get it back."

It was a game where freshman Charles Mann received his latest lesson in what's been a difficult series of lessons of what it's like to be a point guard in the SEC.

Mann scored nine points and dished out three assists, but turned the ball over six times.

Saturday, at least Mann gets to face a fellow freshman in Aggie point guard J'Mychal Reese, a young man Fox suspects is learning some of those same lessons his first go-around in conference play.

"Charles has had his challenges to start the league. But it's been a great experience and I'm sure he'll look back and say it was a good experience for him," Fox said. "(Reese) has probably experienced some of the same things that Charles has to this point. It's going to come down to Charles taking care of himself first, no matter who he's playing against, be it a junior, senior, sophomore or freshman."

But as Fox is always quick to point out, his young Bulldog team has a number of lessons it still needs to learn.
The question is, how long will it be until the results start to show?

"We hope that we'll see that soon. I think one of the guys said yesterday that physical maturity is hard to speed up but if you just really get dialed in mentally you can overcome it until it arrives. I think that was well said," Fox said. "We've had some games this year, Indiana earlier this year and Florida the other night where we played pretty well early but were unable to finish. I think the thing for us is just develop the consistency, both physically and mentally because finishing those things is important."