Dawgs to try to focus on Big Men

ATHENS – All season long, and even before the season began, everyone from Georgia's coaches to its opponents to the media has stressed that guards are the strength of the team.

The members of the Bulldogs' backcourt were more than willing to buy into that idea, freshman Mike Mercer said. So willing in fact that they inadvertently shut out an entire portion of the their team.

"At the beginning of the season, people were saying we had one of the best young backcourts in the nation or whatever, and we kind of got away from our big men," Mercer said. "We are really just trying to do too much in the guard play and not enough in the post play and really the post play is what makes the guard play."

The disconnect between the two halves of the Bulldogs' offense reached its low point Tuesday against Kentucky when none of Georgia's forwards or centers scored a single point. That was hardly their fault, though, considering they took just four shots.

"The No. 1 thing is we are not throwing it in there enough," Coach Dennis Felton said. "That's the No. 1 problem that is holding back inside production."

Georgia (11-6, 1-3 SEC) gets a chance to smooth out its offense today at 5 p.m. in Stegeman Coliseum against surprising Ole Miss, which is 13-3 overall and 3-0 in the league.

The Bulldogs' top six scorers are guards, and their guards have taken more than 75 percent of the team's shots (750 to 245). That imbalance is a chief reason Georgia's offense looks so sloppy at times. Only three teams in the 12-team SEC shoot the ball less accurately than the Bulldogs, who hit 45 percent of their shots.

"We certainly have possessions where we don't show the patience we need to have," Felton said.

Along with being impatient, Georgia's guards have yet to adjust to the heightened level of defense they are seeing in the conference, center Dave Bliss said.

"They're trying to shoot the same shots they shot in the preseason games, and they're not the same shots now," he said. "We have to be more patient. Once we do that, we'll get it inside more, once we move the ball and take what's there instead of trying to shoot a shot the first time you see a crack of daylight."

Georgia is fourth in the SEC in scoring (74.1 ppg) despite being ninth in shooting percentage. The reason for that is the Bulldogs take more shots per game than any team in the league (58.5 per game) except LSU.

"That can be a good thing, but right now it's because we're rushing shots," Mercer said. "We're a young team and everyone wants to take the big shot. We get down by four or five points and everybody wants to be that hero."

Team cohesion also is a factor, Bliss said. The Bulldogs, six of whose top seven contributors are underclassmen, haven't learned yet how to play together and some on-court bickering has begun. In each of the last two games, guard Channing Toney and forward Younes Idrissi have argued during games.

"We get along off the court, but you have to get used to how everyone plays," Bliss said. "We have to adjust as a team and get that chemistry."

Chemistry takes time together, which Georgia hasn't had, and basketball intelligence, which the Bulldogs don't have yet, Felton said.

"The smarter the players are, the quicker they can develop chemistry," he said. "But you can't expect to be real smart when you're as young as we are."

Mercer sees progress, he said.

"We've come a long way from the beginning of the season," he said, "but we have a long ways to go as far as getting the ball to the post and being more inside-out and not trying to just be a guard-oriented team."

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