ATHENS -- The Georgia men’s basketball team knew this might be a rough year, although perhaps not as rough as it has turned out. It harbored hopes of at least producing a respectable record.
This week may dictate whether that can happen.
Georgia first visits Auburn on Wednesday night, then Tennessee on Saturday. Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee own three of the four worst RPI ranks in the SEC. South Carolina is dead last.
So if the Bulldogs -- currently tied for last in the SEC at 1-5 -- are to avoid an abysmal season, this may be the week to make hay.
“It’s definitely time,” sophomore forward Marcus Thornton said. “It’s that time of the season. You’re starting to get in the middle of SEC season. It’s been about six games or something like that. It’s getting to that time where everything matters a little bit more.”
Auburn (12-9 overall, 2-5 SEC) isn’t quite the pushover it was last year. It has played well at home, including a win over the same Mississippi team that Georgia fell to at home last week.
The Bulldogs (10-10 overall) followed that up with a loss to No. 1 Kentucky on Jan. 24. They had the next week off, and head coach Mark Fox used it to let the young players rest.
“I felt like our young players had hit the wall big-time,” Fox said, specifically speaking about leading scorer Kentavious Caldwell, a freshman.
Forward Nemanja Djurisic, another freshman, also has been starting and adjusting to conference play. Senior guard Dustin Ware said the players got a chance to “clear our heads.”
“We just got to beat a little frustration out of each other for awhile,” Ware said.
Georgia’s only win so far against an SEC foe was at home against Tennessee. That provides some hope for Saturday’s trip to Knoxville, but first the Bulldogs have to show they can even win at Auburn.
“You have to deal with adversity. You have to understand why you’re having adversity,” Fox said. “That’s one of the things the young guys have to realize; there was a reason you lost a close game. A lot of it is mental. It’s just such a transition for these guys, and they’ve gotta make it. Everyone else makes it, and you’ve gotta make it, too.”