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December 29, 2009
Preview: Pepperdine at UGA
WHERE: Stegeman Coliseum
WHEN: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
RECORDS: Georgia - 6-4; Pepperdine - 4-10
RADIO: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
Georgia resumes its 2009-10 schedule Wednesday night with a home contest against Pepperdine. The Bulldogs last played one week ago, when they came from behind to defeat Florida Atlantic 77-60 in Athens. The players then dispersed for a 3-day Christmas break, returning to campus for a Dec. 27 practice.
• Georgia arrives at this game with a 6-4 overall record and will be shooting for its second 3-game winning streak of the young season on Wednesday.
• Wednesday's game is the third all-time meeting between these two programs. They played a home-and-home series in the 2001-02 seasons, with Georgia winning both times: 72-61 in Athens and 91-74 in Malibu. The game this season is the by-product of the relation¬ship between the two teams' respective head coaches. Georgia's Mark Fox served as an assistant under Pepperdine coach Tom Asbury at Kansas State during the 1994-2000 seasons. It should also be noted that Asbury and UGA assistant Philip Pearson coached together at Alabama in the 2004-07 seasons.
• After tonight's game, the Georgia schedule ratchets up significantly over the coming weeks. Its next seven games include six opponents that are either in the AP Top 25 or are receiving votes, and also a team (Missouri) that reached the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals last season.
About the Bulldogs
Pepperdine is one of four West Coast Conference schools that has played Georgia. Bulldog teams are 2-2 vs. Gonzaga; 0-1 vs. San Francisco; and 2-0 vs. Santa Clara, including a pre-season NIT matchup with the Broncos last season. In the most recent SEC statistics, Georgia leads the league in free-throw percentage at 71.8 percent, a stark improvement from last season, when the '09 team ranked 11th among the 12 SEC teams at season's end. Georgia has never won the SEC's free throw-percentage title in the 50 years for which those numbers have been tallied.
A couple of other stats that merit a mention: last year's Georgia team averaged nearly 19 3-point shot attempts per game, compared to only 11.8 thus far for the current Bulldogs. The 2010 Georgia team, however, averages over 22 foul shots per contest, compared to just over 17 per game last season. Not only are these Bull¬dogs more frequent foul shooters, but they're also more accurate: 72 percent compared to 64 percent a year ago. ... Trey Thompkins was named the SEC Player of the Week last week, thanks to his out¬standing play in the Bulldogs' win over Illinois. He becomes the first Bulldog since Sundiata Gaines, who did it in February of 2008, to win the P-O-W award. Thompkins, who scored 35 points in Georgia's win over Florida Atlan¬tic, was nine months old the previous time a Georgia player (Litterial Green vs. Florida on 2/12/91) accomplished the feat. In that Illinois game, Thompkins became Georgia's top career scorer among all current Bulldogs. He enters the Pepperdine game with 524 points, having surpassed Jeremy Price (486) on Dec. 20. This, of course, excludes the impressive numbers compiled at Tennes¬see State by junior transfer Gerald Robinson, Jr., who scored 1,021 points in the past two seasons for the Tigers. Robinson is sitting out the 2010 season in compliance with NCAA rules regarding transfers.
Last season, Pepperdine's eight-man freshman class scored more than half of the Waves' points (57.4%). So far, the now-sophomore class has contributed 67.7% of Pepperdine's scoring. Sophomore guard Keion Bell has begun the 2009-10 season as one of the most exciting and prolific players on the West Coast. He is currently averaging 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists. He ranked as high as ninth nationally in scoring a couple of weeks ago, and until after the Waves' last game when his assist average dipped, he was one of just two players in the country averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and four assists. Bell has scored more than 20 points in eight games this season, including a career-high 34 against Monmouth. He's been in double-figures in every game but one. At the pace he's on, he could become Pepperdine's 35th 1,000-point scorer by the end of his sophomore season (he's got 701). He was also leading the WCC in steals last week and is at 1.8 per game. Junior forward Mychel Thompson was selected as team captain for 2009-10 after a landslide vote by his teammates. He is Pepperdine's only player that has been with the team for two full seasons. Thompson is averaging 11.3 points this season (second-best on the team) and 9.3 points for his career, and has made 105 career three-pointers (he needs 113 to break into the school's top 10). He's been in double-figures in six of the last seven games (averaging 15.1 ppg over that span), including a career-high-tying 25 vs. Utah. Sophomore guard/forward Dane Suttle Jr., third-best on the team at 10.8 points per game, is one of the conference's best three-point shooters so far this season. The sophomore wing is averaging 2.1 per game (third in the WCC as of last week) and making 45.8% of them (27-for-59, sixth in the WCC as of last week). Sophomore guard Lorne Jackson has been giving the Waves an offensive lift as of late. He's averaging 13.3 points in the last four games and tied his career high with 18 points vs. Utah. He's fourth on the team in scoring this season with 8.4 ppg.
Rebounding is one area where the Waves are showing improvement over previous years. Last season the team had a negative-1.4 rebound margin, but this season it's at a positive 4.1. Pepperdine has had as many rebounds or more than opponents in 10 of 14 games this season. The last time the Waves finished a season with a positive rebounding margin was 2000-01.
About the head coach
Now in his second stint in charge of the Waves is coaching great Tom Asbury. He returned to Malibu prior to the 2008-09 campaign to become the Waves' head coach again after 14 seasons away. Asbury was previously at Pepperdine for nine years as an assistant coach (1980-88) and then the next six as the head coach (1989-94). He went on to serve as head coach at Kansas State from 1995-2000 and was an assistant coach at Alabama from 2004-07. Asbury went 125-59 (.679) in his first head coaching job at Pepperdine and took the Waves to the postseason five times in six years with three NCAA Tournament appearances (1991, '92, '94) and two in the NIT (1989, '93). Pepperdine won three regular-season WCC titles and the school's only three WCC Tournament championships came under Asbury. Prior to the start of the 2009-10 season, his seven-year record at Pepperdine was 134-82 (.620) and his 13-year record as a head coach was 219-170 (.563).