Ware Tries to get Dawgs Going

ATHENS – It was in part by necessity, in part by design and all because Dustin Ware had turned in his best week of practice yet.

Georgia head coach Dennis Felton was looking for a spark for his listless offense, and Ware's competitiveness in practices leading up to the Bulldogs' game against Mississippi State last Saturday was all the convincing he needed to give the freshman point guard 37 minutes of playing time – just one shy of his season high. While the result was still a loss, Ware's performance added a new dimension to the Georgia offense, while offering a glimmer of promise amid a disastrous six-game losing streak.

"(Ware) had a really good week leading into that game and made it abundantly obvious that he was really putting himself in position to play more, to take on more responsibility, to be more confident and aggressive out there," Felton said.

A more aggressive style is exactly what Ware provided, and his play seemed to breathe new life into an offensive unit that had failed to top 45 points in its previous two games.

Ware had 14 points – including two 3-pointers – and helped spark a second-half comeback against Mississippi State that had Georgia within two points of the lead down the stretch by leading an up-tempo offensive attack that pushed the ball down the court on each possession.

"One thing that I definitely want to do is push it, get out in transition and create more opportunities in the open floor," said Ware, who is averaging 6.4 points and 2.7 assists per game so far this season. "That's something we focused on going into the Mississippi State game."

Ware's insertion into the lineup came in part because sophomore Zac Swansey is nursing a minor foot injury, but Felton said his freshman has shown enough growth and maturity that his playing time should continue to increase regardless

"The freshmen, we're all making strides," fellow freshman Trey Thompkins said. "Dustin's becoming a better player, more of a floor general, and it'll be exciting to see what he can do later on in the season."

The job won't get any easier for Ware or his teammates this week.

With an 0-4 start to SEC play already weighing on them, the Bulldogs begin a brutal stretch of four road games in their next five contests when they take on Florida (17-3, 4-1) tonight.

The Gators have won 11 of their last 12 games, with a last-second one-point loss to South Carolina last week as their only blemish during that run.

"It's a test to see what type of team we are," Thompkins said. "It's a test to see how we're going to respond, whether we're going to lay down or man up and play as a team and grind one out and keep on going with it."

Ware's continued success could play a big part in getting Georgia's fortunes turned around, and while he helped to spark a second-half comeback in his last game, the Bulldogs are hoping he'll be able to ignite an even more impressive run during the weeks to come.

"We definitely have a bunch of good athletes that love to play on the open floor," Ware said. "I think it showed in the second half of the Mississippi State game what we're capable of doing."

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