Struggling to score

ATHENS — Georgia's offensive anemia is so obvious and pervasive that even all-business coach Dennis Felton has to joke about it.

Asked last week about the importance of four 3-point shots hit by guard Levi Stukes against Auburn, Felton said, "Obviously, it helped us get to 50."

Even that meager point total hasn't been a given this year for the Bulldogs (8-15, 2-10 SEC). Six times this season, they've been held below 50 points. That's the first time that has happened since the 1951-52 season.

Overall, Georgia averages 61.4 points per game, which is last in the SEC and well on the way to being the school's lowest scoring season since that dismal 1951-52 season.

There's a simple reason for the struggles, Felton said.

"It's because we don't have a lot of talent and athleticism, and we don't have any experience," he said. "We're missing out on everything."

The Bulldogs are hoping for better results tonight when they take on Mississippi State (18-8, 6-6) in Stegeman Coliseum at 7:30.

Georgia's Bulldogs might get a break because Mississippi State's top dog, forward Lawrence Roberts, is questionable after injuring his leg just above the knee Saturday night against Kentucky.

"We don't think it's any ligaments, but as far as being able to play Wednesday night, that is totally up in the air," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "We're just going to have to wait and see more."

Roberts, the preseason SEC Player of the Year and a first-team preseason All-American, leads the Bulldogs in scoring (17.4 ppg) and rebounding (11 rpg).

"We're approaching the game as if he's playing," Felton said. "I expect him to play."

If he does, it'll be bad news for undersized Georgia.

"He's a handful for everybody to handle and can especially be tough for us because he is so strong and explosive in the frontcourt," Felton said. "That type of guy has been difficult for us to deal with over the season."

But the Bulldogs' offense has been its biggest obstacle all year. To put Georgia's struggles in further perspective, it helps to know that the its six games with fewer than 50 points this year matches its total of similar games from the last 17 seasons.

It has gotten so bad, that at least one key Bulldog is in denial.

"It's not really frustrating," said Stukes, Georgia's leading scorer. "Sixty points is a whole lot. Some teams don't even score that much. We just dwell on getting defensive stops and holding teams under 50 points."

Georgia's scoring in conference games is even worse. The Bulldogs have averaged 56.4 points against SEC opponents, more than 20 points less than league leader Florida averages in conference games.

The Bulldogs' lack of skill is compounded by the fact that they don't know enough to overcome it, Felton said. For instance, Georgia's players don't have the experience to know how to properly use screens or when to make back cuts, he said.

"We're just planting the seeds for becoming savvy," Felton said. "Savvy is a huge part of the game. (The lack of it) makes it doubly challenging to score."

The Bulldogs have proved that this season.

2004-05
Scoring average: 61.4 ppg
Coach: Dennis Felton
Record: 8-15

1951-52
Scoring average: 56.8 ppg Coach: Harbin Lawson
Record: 3-22

MISSISSIPPI STATE at GEORGIA

Today, 7:30 p.m., Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.

Broadcast: 106.1-FM

Records/rankings: 8-15 (2-10 SEC), Mississippi State 18-8 (6-6 SEC) About Georgia: Point guard Sundiata Gaines is coming off a career-high 12 rebounds in Saturday's game against Auburn. He has led the Bulldogs in rebounding in the last two SEC games and is averaging eight in the last five games. "That's impressive" Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "That tells you the kid has a nose for the ball and is working extremely hard." Overall, Gaines is the team's second-leading rebounder with five per game. "Sundiata has made a huge step forward in that area," Coach Dennis Felton said. "We've talked a lot about the fact that one of the reasons we've struggled (rebounding) is we haven't done it enough as a team. For us to be a successful team in the rebounding category, our guards have to be big-time rebounders." ... The Bulldogs have only led four games at halftime this year.

About Mississippi State: The other Bulldogs are hoping they have the services of forward Lawrence Roberts, their leading scorer, who is questionable due to a knee injury, Coach Rick Stansbury said. His impact on Mississippi State is tremendous. Roberts led the Bulldogs in scoring in 11 straight games from Dec. 20 through Jan. 29 but hasn't accomplished that feat since. In the five games since then, MSU is 2-3. ... Starting point guard Winsome Frazier, who missed eight games due to a broken foot, returned to the lineup last week. ... MSU has only won one conference game on the road this season.

Scouting report: Georgia will have to make its first shots count today because it probably won't be getting many rebounds. Mississippi State leads the SEC in rebounding margin (plus-8.9), and Georgia is 11th in that category (minus-3.2). Mississippi State averages 41.2 rebounds per game. According to Georgia coach Dennis Felton, part of the reason for that is their size -- Roberts is 6-foot-9 and center Marcus Campbel is 7-foot, 27 pounds -- and part of the reason is desire. "They are a big, strong ream and a veteran team that understands the importance of rebounding," Felton said. "We're going to have to work really hard to hold our positionand not get pushed around and battle with them on the glass."

Next: Georgia at Vanderbilt, Saturday, 4 p.m.; Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss, Saturday, 7 p.m.


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