Dawgs Have Job to Finish

ATHENS – It was loss No. 8 in a row for Georgia, but in many ways, Saturday's defeat at the hands of Alabama was the first day of a new era.

Just two days earlier, head coach Dennis Felton was fired, replaced by assistant Pete Herrmann, who did his best to gather the team's emotions and turn the tide, but it was hard for the Bulldogs to ignore the missing voice on the bench.

"We all are sad about the loss of Coach Felton, but we know we still have a season to finish," freshman Trey Thompkins said. "Coach Felton did the best job he could, and now Coach Herrmann is going to step in and lead us. We're going to keep depending on each other to stay strong and play hard."

Effort and enthusiasm were all Herrmann asked of his troops, and for the most part, he said, they delivered, which was an accomplishment worth noting.

"We thought that the hardest part about it was that we had a game in 48 hours, and that's got to be our concentration, not all the extracurricular stuff," Herrmann said. "I think the objective was to get ready to play the game, and the guys did a good job of that."

Still, the Felton's shadow still hung over the game.

University president Michael Adams was sitting front row for the game, hoping to show solidarity with the team.

Reports linked college basketball legend Bobby Knight with the now vacant head-coaching position before the game, and players faced questions about their future afterward.

"There's a lot of distractions right now," said Thompkins, who racked up a game-high 22 points against Alabama. "Of course it's going to be kind of hard for our team to stay focused, but Coach Herrmann is doing a great job of keeping us together as a family and playing with effort and toughness."

Alabama – a team that changed its head coach just days before Felton's termination – offered as big an obstacle as any of the off-court distractions. The Crimson Tide shot nearly 50 percent from 3-point range, while the Bulldogs continued the trend of turning the ball over far too many times. Georgia was competitive, but as it had so many times during Felton's tenure, it came up shot in the end.

After the game, Felton was the main topic of discussion but the coaching chaos wasn't used to explain another loss, which put Georgia at 0-6 in conference.

"It's not a burden," senior Corey Butler said. "You're not looking for a scapegoat. We have to get out there and play basketball every day. You're not looking for any excuse."

In fact, Felton's firing was in some ways a relief. For two years, his job status had been a source of rumors, and junior Albert Jackson said it was difficult for the team to avoid the discussion.

Now, the task for the Bulldogs is simple: Win basketball games. The rest is out of their hands, and Thompkins said that's approach the team needs to take.

"We've got a season in front of us," Thompkins said. "We'll worry about (who coaches) when the season is over. We've got a job to finish."

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