ATHENS -- Some games, Charles Mann isn’t very good. Some games, it’s Kenny Gaines whose shot won’t go down. And other games, it can be Nemanja Djurisic or J.J. Frazier, and in rare cases Marcus Thornton.
But Georgia still wins a lot of those games, even when two or even three of those players are struggling. That’s the nature of this basketball team. It doesn’t have an All-SEC player, and it’s not very deep, but it’s still finding a way to make things work.
“That’s the thing about having a balanced team; even if we do have some guys have an off night, you can still play well as a whole,” Thornton said. “That’s probably been one of the strengths of our team. But if we can get a night where everybody clicks, that’s even more of a bonus and makes us a pretty good team.”
That’s what happened in Wednesday’s win at Texas A&M, when Georgia did a lot for its chances of making the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs (16-7, 7-4 SEC) will take an RPI rank of 22 into Saturday’s home game against Auburn.
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Georgia doesn’t have anybody in the SEC’s top five in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks or field goal percentage. But the Bulldogs do have a rare thing -- five players averaging in double figures.
The last time Georgia had five players average in double figures was the 1979-80 season, when one of them was freshman Dominique Wilkins. This season, the gap from leading scorer Marcus Thornton (12.8 points per game) to fifth-leading scorer J.J. Frazier (10.6) is a layup.
It’s a team without stars, which is both good and bad. So far, it has been mostly good, because it’s a veteran team that knows itself and plays within itself.
“We don’t have to have a guy get 20,” head coach Mark Fox said.
But it does help to have two players in particular playing well: Mann and Gaines. Thornton and Djurisic, the two seniors, have been the most consistent players. But when Gaines and Mann have been on, Georgia has been a better team.
The Bulldogs are 5-1 in the games that Gaines has been their leading scorer and 4-1 when Mann has been the leading scorer. The loss in Mann’s case was to Gonzaga, and in Gaines’ case it was to Arkansas. Those are two of the top teams Georgia will face all season.
Six of Georgia’s seven losses this season have come when Mann was held to single digits. Gaines has been held to single digits nine times, and four of those were in losses.
“We’ve just gotta find a way to all contribute positively,” Gaines said. “Even if it’s not scoring necessarily, we can play well in other areas that might not be mentioned or talked about.”
That’s also what happened in Wednesday’s win. Not only did Mann and Gaines score, they also kept the turnovers to a minimum, after combining for 11 against Tennessee.
“Pretty much everybody was rolling. The starting five got it. Everybody was clicking at the same time,” Mann said. “We’ve gotta let that game go, focus on Saturday, and hopefully we do the same thing.”
Auburn (11-13, 3-8) could be without two key players. Guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen who started 15 games and averaged 6.1 points, is definitely out with shoulder surgery, WHILE starting guard Antoine Mason (14.7 points per game) is with his ailing father Anthony Mason, the former NBA player.
On Georgia’s end, small forward Juwan Parker is closer to returning after missing the past nine games with an injured Achilles. Fox said Parker is unlikely to play Saturday but wouldn’t rule him out, a good sign of progress.