Dawgs Try to Continue Momentum

ATHENS – Last Saturday's game marked a watershed moment in the Mark Fox era at Georgia.

The Bulldogs knocked off a top-10 opponent for the first time in nearly six years. They earned Fox's first SEC win in dominant fashion. They played their best basketball of the season from start to finish. And best of all, said point guard Dustin Ware, they did it in front of a jam-packed crowd at Stegeman Coliseum.

"It was the first time I'd ever experienced anything like that," Ware said. "It was so fun just hearing a sold-out crowd screaming and just honoring as hard as we played."

From the marquee win to the packed house, it was a clear indication of just how far Georgia has come in Fox's first year at the helm of the program. This week, however, is all about taking another step.

The Bulldogs tip off the first of two straight road games against SEC foes tonight when they head to Gainesville to take on archrival Florida, and if Fox's crew wants to keep the momentum of last week's big win going, it will have to halt the immense tide of failure Georgia has experienced on the road in recent years.

So far this season, the upstart Bulldogs have an impressive enough 8-2 record in front of their home fans, including wins over top-25 opponents Georgia Tech and Tennessee. Away from Stegeman, however, things have been much less friendly.

Georgia is 1-6 in games outside of its home arena, with the lone win being a victory over Illinois in Duluth with a noticeably pro-Bulldogs crowd in tow. In opponents' arenas, Georgia is winless in five tries, including an eight-point loss to No. 1 Kentucky and a devastating 72-69 defeat at Mississippi State on Jan. 13 in a game in which UGA led by as many as 16 in the second half.

"We lost a lot of good games we should have won," guard Travis Leslie said. "But we're not going to let them get to us. We're going to keep working hard and keep competing."

Of course, the road woes are nothing new for the Bulldogs.

Georgia has won just one game on an opposing court in each of the past two seasons, with only a late-season upset of fading Kentucky last year and a win at also-ran Auburn two years ago to their credit.

The simple fact is Georgia hasn't experienced much success on the road under any circumstances, and much like the many other rebuilding jobs Fox has faced this season, getting over the hump away from home will be an uphill battle.

"We have had a poor approach on the road early," Fox said. "We're starting to learn how to play away from home. We have some work to do there yet. We're not over the hump yet. We've made some progress, but first you have to get good, you have to play well. Then you learn to deal with the crowd and the travel and sleeping in another bed and all those things. But we're making progress."

Florida, meanwhile, is 9-2 on its home court this season, with a loss to Kentucky and a shocking upset at the hands of South Alabama being the Gators' lone blemish.

A year ago, Georgia traveled to Gainesville and was upended by Florida 83-57 in what turned out to be Dennis Felton's final game as head coach. He was fired the next day, making way for Fox's arrival three months later.

This year's team hasn't shown its ready to turn around the road woes of years past just yet, but so many of the clouds that hung over the program a year ago have already lifted that it's not hard to see Fox's crew edging the Gators. But make no mistake, he said. His team isn't out to steal a game on the road from an SEC foe. The only way to end the curse of the road game is to go into an opponent's house and earn a long-awaited victory.

"It's important that we find some success on the road," Fox said. "We have to play well. We have to go earn one."


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