Georgia has a big test with Gators

Boosted by a five-game homestand that pushed the team back into the Top 25, Georgia will be back on the road today as it tries to match its longest winning streak in 20 years.

 Georgia (9-3 overall, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) will bring an eight-game winning streak to today's 3 p.m. test at No. 11 Florida (12-2, 1-0).  Georgia has not won nine straight games since its 1983 Final Four season, but stretching the current streak will be difficult.

 Even though the Bulldogs' last two home wins came against No. 2 Pittsburgh and No. 21 Louisiana State, and they lost early in the season to No. 5 Texas, the Gators may be the best team Georgia has played.

 Last year, Georgia upset then-No. 2 Florida in Gainesville, and this season the Gators have enough talent and depth to again move into the top five.

 Thanks to the big impact of freshmen Matt Walsh, a 6-foot-6 forward, and Anthony Roberson, a 6-foot-1 guard, Florida already has beaten three ranked teams, including a 74-66 win at No. 7 Mississippi State to open its SEC schedule.

 "To go into Starkville and come out with a win like that is certainly impressive,'' said Georgia coach Jim Harrick.

 Walsh, Roberson and 6-foot-10 senior forward Matt Bonner lead a balanced scoring attack. Another senior, guard Justin Hamilton, led the Gators with 22 points in the win at Mississippi State, and sophomore center David Lee is av eraging about 10 points per game.

 The Gators' attack will be even more balanced if senior guard Brett Nelson, who last year scored 14.6 points per game, finds his shooting touch. Nelson is only averaging 5.9 points per game.

 "When you look back at his career, Brett's been a slow starter,'' said Florida coach Billy Donovan, now in his seventh season with the Gators. "But he starts to play really well around January and February.''

 An already talented Florida roster also includes Christian Drejer, a 6-foot -9 freshman guard from Denmark. An injury has kept Drejer out of action but he was in uniform at Mississippi State and could play this week.

 "Drejer right now is one of our better players,'' Donovan said. "In the limited time he's had to practice, he's shown that he's definitely a special player.''

 Georgia lacks size but boasts strong outside shooters, good depth and the advantage of experience at every position.  In its five-game homestand, Georgia shot 53 percent from the field, 48 percent on 3-pointers and  won by an average score of 90-68.

 "I think they've learned what a good shot is,'' Harrick said. "They've taken (3-point shots) within the framework of the offense. ... The 3-pointers that they're taking are good looks.''

 Georgia's strength is its depth of wing players — small forwards and shooting guards.  Starters Ezra Williams and Jarvis Hayes rank among the SEC scoring leaders. Damien Wilkins is a versatile sixth man who can also play point guard. Richard Wehunt and freshman Wayne Arnold are 3-point shooters.

 Also this week Fred Gibson — who played a key role down the stretch in last year's win at Florida — joined practice following the end of football season.

 "In my opinion, they are a top 10 team,'' Donovan said. "They are certainly very well coached, and they will be one of the best teams we play this year. They certainly have a chance to do something special.''

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