Bulldogs riding hot streak to Gainesville

When Georgia has come to Gainesville in recent years, the Bulldogs didn't pose much of a threat. Former McDonald's All-American Kentavious Caldwell-Pope anchored the Bulldogs for the past two years, but he wasn't able to do everything on his own. This year, with Caldwell-Pope starting for the Detroit Pistons after being a lottery pick, Georgia has become one of the hottest teams in the SEC.

It doesn't make much sense on paper. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope enrolled at Georgia as the savior of the basketball program. He was the linchpin to the success of head coach Mark Fox. After back-to-back seasons without even sniffing an NCAA Tournament bid with Caldwell-Pope in the lineup, he left early following last season and was taken with the eighth overall pick by the Detroit Pistons.

And the Bulldogs have started SEC play with a 2-0 record, including a win on the road at then-No. 21 Missouri.

Caldwell-Pope always had the respect of the league's coaches. For Florida coach Billy Donovan, he saw an unselfish player that wanted to get his teammates involved and pass to the open man, something that isn't always the case with a future professional. With him gone, new faces have stepped up.

In the first two conference games, that has been sophomore guard Charles Mann (14.1 points per game), named the league's player of the week on Monday morning for scoring over 40 combined points in wins over Alabama and Missouri. Sophomore Kenny Gaines has also helps, averaging 12.2 points this year.

"I think Mark (Fox) has done a great job of utilizing his personnel," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Now you've got two backcourt players that are a year older in Gaines and Mann. There's more options this year for their team in terms of what they had last year. Mann and Gaines were not in a position to step up to that role that maybe Caldwell-Pope was in. Now those guys are a year older and stepping into a bigger role for themselves. They've performed very well in those."

The Bulldogs have also seen production from their frontcourt. Big men Donte' Williams and Marcus Thornton are averaging 5.2 and 4.9 rebounds, respectively, while blocking shots and giving Fox two trusted big men to go with sophomore Brandon Morris (9.2 points/3.6 rebounds).

The x-factor for Donovan is forward Nemanja Djurisic, who comes off the bench. He's averaging 10.6 points and 4.2 rebounds off the bench.

"Djurisic had a good year last year and has gotten better," Donovan said. "He's a year older and shooting the ball extremely well from behind the three-point line."

The Bulldogs have been successful at getting their opponents in foul trouble during the last two games, something that could test Florida's depth on Tuesday at 7 p.m. with leading scorer Casey Prather out. The Gators are also still waiting on the NCAA to make a decision regarding freshman forward Chris Walker.

The other important part of Tuesday's game is the home winning streak Florida is riding. The Gators have won 24 straight home games, and 25 on Tuesday would break the school record set during the back-to-back national championship seasons for Florida.

The players say they didn't even know about the streak, but it could set up for a historical Tuesday night.

"Every game is different and new," Donovan said. "It's got its own unique set of challenges in every game. It's just another game we're playing at home. Everything that has happened in the past has nothing to do with tomorrow night. Tomorrow night is its own separate, competitive game. We'll need to come here tomorrow night and play well against a Georgia team that's playing really well."

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