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When it comes to playing in tight games, won or lost in the final moments, or playing five extra minutes in Overtime, perhaps no two teams in the country are more used to it than the Georgia Bulldogs and the Gonzaga Bulldogs. While Gonzaga has been in tight situations in Maui, Missoula, Pullman and at home in The Kennel, the only team that can lay claim to more drama than the Zags are the Bulldogs from Athens, GA.
Georgia Head Coach Jim Harrick's squad is predicted to contend for the Southeast Conference title. Georgia began the year in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic where they led Texas most of the game, only to let the Longhorns gain an edge near the end and hang on to defeat the Bulldogs 77-71. No matter the outcome, anybody watching knew this team was for real.
Subsequently, Georgia hammered Belmont 87-71 before being surprised by bitter rival Georgia Tech in a six point loss, 83-77. Then came the heartbreaker of the year thus far at Minnesota. After scratching and clawing their way into a tie with Dan Monson's Golden Gophers, before a hostile crowd, with seconds remaining, Georgia watched a 3-point prayer bounce on the rim, look like it was falling off, before tumbling through the hoop after the buzzer for a tough three point defeat. But since that game Georgia has beaten Colorado in Boulder, 71-70, and then handled California in Berkeley, 78-73.
With Georgia it's "pick your poison." 6'4" Ezra Williams is averaging almost 18 ppg, 6'7" Jarvis Hayes averages 17 ppg, 6'7" Chris Daniels is getting over 11 ppg with 7 rebounds, and 6'8" Jonas Hayes, 6'7" Damien Wilkins and 6'3" Rashad Wright score between 7 and 9 ppg each! Their best 3-point shooters are Ezra Williams (45.7%) and Jarvis Hayes (46.2%). If there is a weakness in the Georgia armor, it's free-throw shooting. Only Rashad Wright is above 70%.
Georgia is extremely athletic and quick to make up for lack of size. Expect them to be very active around the boards and fast break at every opportunity. On defense, they will force Gonzaga to value and take care of the ball, or otherwise it could be a long game of turnovers for Gonzaga.
Gonzaga has a size advantage and must use it to its advantage by pounding the ball low, finishing strong and scoring or forcing Georgia to foul. Georgia is not an exceptionally deep team. A timely mix of outside shooting will be needed to keep Georgia's defense honest. Crisp execution with no long lapses or droughts will be at a premium for the Zags.
Jim Harrick is no stranger to Gonzaga and the WCC. He coached at Pepperdine for years back before Mark Few was head coach. Harrick would win a National Championship while at UCLA. Ironically, Harrick and Few are good friends and the Georgia coach was in Spokane last September for the Coaches Against Cancer Fund Benefit.