Bulldogs Ready to Open SEC Play

ATHENS – Coach Mark Fox says his team has improved over the course of the non-conference schedule.

But he's still not completely happy with the way his team is playing, he said in a teleconference Monday.

"We just have a more complete team this year, and we have found some ways to win," he said. "That doesn't mean we've played great, and we enter league play knowing we're going to have to play a lot better because we're going to play some great team and open with a great one also playing very well."

Georgia finished the out-of-conference slate 11-2, compared to an 8-5 start last season.

"We're off to a good start. We have beaten the teams we were supposed to beat, I think," Fox said.

But the wins haven't been as easy as Fox, and fans, may have liked. Mississippi Valley State, UAB, Arkansas State and Eastern Kentucky played the Bulldogs close at home. Road wins over Mercer, Manhattan and Saint Louis weren't pretty.

Losses to Notre Dame and Temple came in Orlando, as forward Trey Thompkins was still working his way back to full health following an ankle injury.

Now, Kentucky and the rest of the SEC loom large. The Bulldogs used the out-of-conference games to build an initial case for making the NCAA Tournament. Winning games in the conference will solidify a trip to the "Big Dance."

"We have found some ways to win," Fox said. "We enter league play knowing we're going to have to play a lot better."

Despite the inconsistent play, Fox says his team is improving. Juniors Thompkins (17.4), Travis Leslie (13.4) and Gerald Robinson (12.6) are averaging double figures in scoring, while nine players are currently averaging double-digit minutes per game. The increased useable depth and scoring is an important factor, Fox said.

"I think we can score the ball from more places this year," he said. "I think we feel like we're a deeper team. We're a more experienced team. So we just have a deeper, more experienced roster. I think we have some guys—it's the second year in our system so they're more comfortable with what we're trying to do. Those things have all helped us."

Georgia opens SEC play Jan 8, hosting Kentucky.

"Kentucky is terrific," Fox said. "I think they're shooting the 3 from a high clip. They're scoring from lots of different places. I think they're playing together. They're a terrific defensive team, probably underappreciated in how good their defense is. This is a very good basketball team that we're getting ready to play and a team that we have great respect for. We'll have to really get geared up."

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