Bulldogs showing their teeth

Many fans look at Georgia's 20-point loss at home to Winthrop and laugh. They feel the same way when looking at a 21-point home loss to South Carolina and a 24-point loss at Tennessee. <br><br>But Bama's next opponent is no patsy. Not even close.

Beyond those embarrassing losses, fans find a Bulldog win over then Top 5 Georgia Tech and a road win at No. 5 Kentucky, snapping the Wildcats' 21-game win streak against SEC opponents and shake their heads. The Bulldogs also lost to Gonzaga, another Top 25 team, in overtime.

Is this really a good team or what? Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried thinks so. His Crimson Tide (10-4, 2-1 SEC) will take on the Bulldogs (9-5, 1-2), led by first-year head coach Dennis Felton, at Stegeman Coliseum at 6 p.m. CST.

"Georgia went into Rupp and just beat them (Kentucky) wire to wire," Gottfried said. "One thing you have to remember is that four of those starters have all been winning. They've been a part of success. They have pride. They had gotten beat twice (in a row) going into that game. Those guys have been a part of some winning, and it showed (Saturday).

"I don't think there is any question that when those guys play well, Georgia is experienced enough, they're talented enough-to beat every body in this league."

The Bulldogs offense starts with senior point guard Rashad Wright, who was named SEC Player of the Week for his 20-point performance against Kentucky. In his first three years, Wright focused more on getting the ball to shooters such as Ezra Williams and Jarvis Hayes, but has now become one of the focal points of the offensive attack. Wright averages 14.6 points and 3.1 assists per game, leading the team in scoring.

With the help of new assistant Tom Asbury, Gottfried has an inexperienced team playing tough defense and winning basketball.

"I think Rashad Wright is the catalyst for them," Gottfried said. "I think he makes them go. And again, he's a four-year guy. He's pretty much started his whole time. He's scoring a lot more this year than he has in the past; he's looking to shoot it and score more."

Wright is joined in the back-court by freshman guard Levi Stukes, the only freshman starter with four seniors. Stukes, the likely leader on next year's team, is averaging 9.1 points per game.

The front-court is experienced, and it starts with center Chris Daniels, a mainstay in the lineup over the last four years. Standing 6-7, Daniels averages 10.6 points and 10 rebounds per game. Jonas Hayes, twin brother of first-round draft pick Jarvis Hayes, is the center. The 6-8, 240-pound Hayes averages 13.1 points per game.

The other forward is Damien Wilkins, who averages 13.1 points per game. Wilkins, the son of former NBA player Gerald Wilkins, played his first two years at North Carolina State before declaring for the NBA Draft, withdrawing his name, and transferring to Georgia.

Georgia's bench features a few no-name, lightly recruited players who provided key minutes and a spark in the win at Kentucky. Expect to see the likes of freshmen Marcus Sikes, Joey Waldrop (7-feet, 350 pounds), and Steve Newman off the bench in the front-court and freshman Buzz Wehunt coming off the bench at the guard position. Waldrop and Wehunt are non-scholarship players. However, expect most of the starters to play well over 30 minutes in the contest, barring foul trouble.

Even if Georgia didn't pull off the win at Kentucky, Gottfried would still be impressed. In a win by Georgia in last year's game in Tuscaloosa, returning players Wright, Hayes, Daniels, and Wilkins all played a key role.

"They left an impression on us last year coming in here, and the fact that those four guys are a pretty key part of all that winning and success the last couple of years, that earns your respect," Gottfried said.

Then again, it was a win at Georgia two years ago that lifted the "road woes" monkey off the Tide's back and led to three more SEC road wins, and eventually the SEC Championship.


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