Dawgs continue to look for 1st SEC win

ATHENS — It has come to this for Georgia's struggling basketball team: Even during their only open week of the season, the Bulldogs suffered a loss as sophomore walk-on Buzz Wehunt quit the team.

That move's impact on the court will be virtually nonexistent. He had played eight minutes all season and hadn't played in the past five games.

However, it does make everyday life just a little bit harder for Georgia. Under normal conditions, the Bulldogs (6-8, 0-4 SEC) could have used their off week to throw themselves into strenenous practices and make themselves better. The reality for Georgia is it barely has enough SEC-caliber players to get in a decent workout.

The Bulldogs have just seven scholarship players and two of those -- center Dave Bliss (back) and forward Corey Gibbs (ankle) -- have missed at least the last two weeks of practice due to injuries.

"It's a tough challenge for us all the way around," Coach Dennis Felton said. "It's a challenge to create the kind of everyday competition that raises the level of intensity and raises the challenge because we just have these (five healthy) scholarship players."

Both Bliss and Gibbs are expected to play today against Vanderbilt at 4 p.m. in Stegeman Coliseum. The Commodores (11-6, 2-2) also are coming off an open date, negating any small advantage Georgia might have had today.

Vanderbilt is on a two-game losing streak thanks to losses at Kentuckyand against Florida, but it had won seven in row before that, including victories over Alabama and Tennessee.

Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said he respects the way the Bulldogs are handling their adversity, but he can't resist a little coachspeak.

"They have not made excuses," he said. "They have gone about their business. There are no easy games in this league. There are no nights off. Our guys will be prepared to play a very good Georgia basketball team."

That last statement is very tough to defend. The Bulldogs have lost five straight and have yet to be competitive in the second half of a conference game.

"It's just a real fight for us every day," Felton said.

The fact that Georgia still is looking for its first conference win doesn't add any urgency to today's game, Felton said.

"Only fans get caught up in we have to win this or this is a must-win situation," he said. "We feel that way about every game, we want badly to win our next game."

Today, 4 p.m., Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.

Broadcast: 106.1-FM

Georgia 6-8, 0-4 SEC, Vanderbilt 11-6, 2-2 SEC

ABOUT GEORGIA: Freshman guard Channing Toney leds the SEC in free throw shooting (90.5 percent). If he keeps that up, he'll become the first Bulldog since Dick McIntosh in 1968 to accomplish that. ... Sophomore guard Levi Stukes (hip) has practiced all week and is expected to be at full strength today. ... Head coach Dennis Felton also expects Corey Gibbs (anikle) to play today for the first time since Dec. 28.

ABOUT VANDERBILT: Freshman forward Shan Foster is coming off a career game. He scored 18 points against Florida last week after hitting 6 of 9 3-point attempts. ... Junior guard Mario Moore leads the Commodores in scoring (13.9 ppg) and assists (3.8 apg). ... Dawid Przybyszewski, the Commodores, 7-foot-2 center, has made at least one 3-pointer in 13 of the team's 17 games this year. By percentage, he's the second-best long-range shooter on the team.

SCOUTING REPORT: The Commodores' biggest strength fits very nicely for them into Georgia's biggest weakness. The Bulldogs are 10th in the SEC in scoring defense and 10th in overall shooting defense. They are eighth in 3-point shooting defense. Georgia's opponents have hit more than 36 percent of their 3-pointers. Vanderbilt leads the league in 3-point shooting, having hit 42.3 percent of its attempts and made an SEC-best 181. "Vanderbilt presents a unique challenge to everyone who plays them because they play a unique style of basketball and a smart style of basketball," Felton said. "They usually have five guys on the floor who can shoot the three, and they take great advatange of it." The Commodores spread their players far around the floor, putting them out near the 3-point line often and making it hard for oppossing players to help each other defensively. Today's game will give Georgia a chance to see how much, if any, its perimeter defense has improved, Felton said.

NEXT: Georgia at Florida, Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2); Vanderbilt at South Carolina, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (Jefferson Pilot)


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