OK, OK. Maybe it's unfair to tag Mark Fox's Georgia Bulldogs with the sobriquet "cellar dweller" since our own USC Gamecocks are the undisputed bottom-feeders of the SEC. Say what you will about Darrin Horn and his squad, though, they haven't given up - there is still a lot of fight left in these Fighting Cocks, and pride demands a SEC win over the Dawgs tonight at the Colonial Life Arena (Tip off 7:00 p.m., TV - CSS/ESPN3).
What should we expect from the Athenians? Fox runs a slow-paced, triangle offense which features a lot of screens, ball-reversals and slashing drives to the hoop; the system is excellent in protecting the ball - this season, the Dawgs are one of the conference leaders in fewest steals given away - averaging less than 7 a game.
Unfortunately for the Peach State Pups, however, they boast the worst team shooting percentage in the league ... just .395 ... which is just a shade under our own anemic .410. Their big weapon is former McDonald's All-American freshman G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who can score from any spot on the floor, and is averaging 14.5 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game. He is paired with senior G Gerald Robinson is averaging 14 points per game himself - and who crushed Arkansas at Stegeman Coliseum with a career-high 27 points. Good perimeter defense is going to be huge against this tandem - which wasn't Carolina's strong suit against Tennesse or Arkansas.
After a rough four weeks from January 7 to February 4 (which saw the Dawgs go 1-7), UGA is now riding a bit of a high following their last two games after whipping Arkansas 81-59 at home and upsetting # 18 MSU on the road at the Humph 70-68 in OT. A win tonight would give Georgia its first three-game win streak since OOC play back in December; if they can beat Vandy at Memorial on Saturday, them the Red-and-Black will serve notice that they've fixed what was ailing them out of the gate in conference play.
Will the Gamecocks have enough moxy to scratch and claw out a victory? Remember, this Georgia team held the Cocks to just 9 first half points the last time the Dawgs played at the Colonial Life Arena [in 2011] and eked out the win despite a furious second-half charge by Carolina. Fast forward a year to today, and Andy Demetra figures the Cocks need points from Lakeem Jackson and rebounds from Anthony Gill to beat the Bulldogs. UGA does not do a good job cleaning up its own glass (last in the SEC with only 31% offensive rebounds) and this is an area where USC will have to re-discover the rebounding form it exhibited earlier in the season (which has abandoned us of late). Obviously, we not only need to shoot well, but we need to cut turnovers and increase our FT %.
Wild-arsed, seat of my pants, post-game-deniable prediction? Why not put our ppg (62.4) against theirs (61.9)? Hopefully the Dawgs will have already mentally checked us off as a "win" (the way their gridiron brethren usually do) and we can spoil their little late season run and start a little run of our own. Plus, Darrin Horn will be coaching for his job, while Fox knows he is secure in Athens. Since we have more to lose, call it USC 62-UGA 61. GO COCKS!