Tech, Dawgs limp into critical in-state fight

ATHENS – When Georgia lost Takais Brown and then Mike Mercer and now Rashaad Singleton, it lost more than what can be accounted for on paper – points, rebounds, minutes, etc.

It also lost toughness, a lesson the Bulldogs have learned the hard way while compiling an 8-4 record heading into today's 7:30 p.m. game against Georgia Tech in Stegeman Coliseum.

"I don't know that anything teaches (toughness) quite as effectively as experience," Georgia head coach Dennis Felton said.

The Bulldogs have precious little of that. Four of their 10 remaining contributors are freshmen – Jeremy Price, Zac Swansey, Troy Brewer and Chris Barnes. One is a sophomore who sat out the first six games of the season due to suspension, Albert Jackson, and another is a walk-on, Corey Butler.

In Georgia's first two losses of the season, a 21-point loss to Wisconsin and a disheartening 18-point loss to East Tennessee State, that lack of toughness surfaced in key stretches and proved the Bulldogs' demise, Felton said.

"We kind of wilted to our opponent," he said.

That didn't happen the last time out even though Georgia lost, a 75-67 decision to Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., on Saturday, Felton said.

"We did make a step forward," he said. "Sure we could have played a little better and won the game, but we never lost our attack mentality like we did (before)."

It was before the Gonzaga game that Georgia announced that Singleton, a 7-foot junior, had left the team in hope of finding more playing time. Singleton had recently been replaced in the starting lineup by Price.

Due to dismissals, defections and injury, Georgia has only 10 players available for tonight's game and the foreseeable future. Freshman Jeremy Jacob is sidelined by a broken foot.

Of Georgia's four remaining veterans, three – point guard Sundiata Gaines, shooting guard Billy Humphrey and wing Terrance Woodbury -- have not played up to their potential this year, Felton said.

That knowledge gives Felton hope that the Bulldogs can turn around their season and make a run at the NCAA Tournament now that the meat of the season has arrived.

Georgia begins conference play this weekend with a 2 p.m. game Saturday against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.

"I'm certainly not ready to concede anything this year," Felton said. "I think this team does have tremendous capacity to improve as the year goes along."

The atmosphere of tonight's rivalry game should be another lesson in toughness for the young Bulldogs. The Yellow Jackets (7-6) are putting together a similarly fitful season.

"Georgia-Georgia Tech is what it always is," Felton said. "It's a real special rivalry that we all get excited about."

Georgia vs. Georgia Tech

7:30 p.m., today, Stegeman Coliseum

Records: Georgia 8-4, Georgia Tech 7-6

Last game: Georgia lost to Gonzaga 75-67, Georgia Tech beat Presbyterian 77-64

The scouting report: Junior guard Billy Humphrey, the team's leading scorer, is considered day-to-day due to a left knee injury that has been bothering him for more than a week, head coach Dennis Felton said. "He has been far from 100 percent for a while now," Felton said. Team doctors planned to take an MRI scan of the knee Monday evening, and Humphrey is expected to play today. Georgia Tech, which hasn't won in Athens since 1976-77, is led by guard Anthony Morrow and his 14.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

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