Georgia looking to make its push into NCAAs

ATHENS – Kentucky's not quite KENTUCKY these days.

The Wildcats that Georgia beat in overtime Wednesday were unranked in the Associated Press poll, but there's still something symbolic about beating Big Blue for these Bulldogs.

"Most definitely," junior guard Sundiata Gaines said. "Kentucky is a powerhouse. They're always good every year. I think that's a stepping stone. This is a big step."

Georgia, which can take another step today against No. 21 LSU at 3 p.m. in Stegeman Coliseum, previously had only two players on its roster who had beaten Kentucky, seniors Levi Stukes and Steve Newman. As Dennis Felton's planned turnaround of the Bulldog program continues, making mental progress is as important as anything, he said.

"That's part of our process, convincing them that we're good enough and that what we do is good enough," he said. "We haven't been in position in a long time to impose our will and have reasons to expect to be successful. For the last several years, we've been in the mode of competing really, really hard just for self-respect, just to give ourselves a chance to compete. We're working on turning that corner in terms of being a team that not just expects to compete but expects to be successful."

Center Dave Bliss was a freshman during the 2004 season, when Georgia hit rock bottom, finishing 8-20 overall and 2-14 in the SEC.

"There were a lot of games that first year that we'd come out and play hard and hang with a team in the first half and in the second half, they'd just pull away and we'd run out of gas," Bliss said. "We're at the point now where we can go toe-to-toe with anybody, we feel like. It's a big confidence thing, getting some wins over a team like Kentucky which over the years, we've struggled to beat."

That confidence bleeds not only into the next game but into every aspect of the program, Bliss said.

"It makes everyone more excited and maybe they bring a little extra in practice because you know that you really have a chance to play for something special this season and really make something happen that you'll remember forever," he said. "We're just pushing real hard trying to get to that tournament."

That tournament could be the NCAA Tournament, which the Bulldogs have not participated in since 2002.

Felton isn't ready to label the Kentucky victory, or any one game for that matter, the tipping point for his team, but he's happy for any step in the right direction.

"Obviously, we want to have as much success as we can to develop that momentum for the climb to becoming a good team," he said. "Each time they have some success against this level of competition, it's going to bolster their confidence."

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