ATHENS – Kentucky had yet to play on Saturday when Georgia’s Mark Fox met the media, so he didn’t know whether the Wildcats would come to Athens as an unbeaten and No. 1-ranked team.
What wouldn’t change, Fox and many agree, is that Kentucky has one of the most talented teams in college basketball history.
“Kentucky’s got a great team. One of the great teams of all time,” Fox said. “They’ve got a front line bigger than I think every NBA team but maybe one.
“How do we get ready for Kentucky? I’ll call Bud over there and see if we can scrimmage the Hawks tomorrow.”
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It’s not a stretch to think the Atlanta Hawks, leaders in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, and coached by Mike Budenholzer, might have comparable talent to Kentucky.
But Georgia has at least some reason for confidence heading into the match-up, having played a competitive game at Kentucky the first time. The Bulldogs were only down five with two minutes to go, and that was without leading scorer Marcus Thornton, as well as small forwards Kenny Paul Geno and Juwan Parker. All three played in Saturday’s rout of Missouri.
“It’s not like, Ooh we hung with Kentucky. I feel like we can hang with anybody in the country, and our best player wasn’t playing,” sophomore guard J.J. Frazier said. “So of course you get a little more confident because, as I call him the 'boss' wasn’t down in the paint. Now that we’ve got him back, obviously as you see our is better in rhythm and he demands double teams.”
Several players agreed that the Kentucky game was something everyone was aware of, but didn’t want to mention in the lead up to Saturday.
“As a team, as an older team, we always know our schedule,” Frazier said. “But that doesn’t mean that we look past the team we’re playing. But Kentucky’s a great team. But we didn’t look past Missouri because Missouri has great talent.”
Parker played Saturday after missing 11 games with an achilles injury, which will require surgery after the season. The sophomore is still a ways from being back to health, and only got in the game with 4:05 left.
Still, Parker felt good enough to go for a dunk, and after being fouled he made the second of two free throw attempts. He also had a steal and an assist in officially two minutes of action.
“I was hoping to play him the other day and he was really sore, and so we didn’t. So I wanted him to get in for the first time, obviously, when he didn’t have any pressure, and he could just relax,” Fox said.
Parker, who started 14 games for Georgia this season, doesn’t seem likely to play very much on Tuesday. But he can provide 5-to-10 minutes that will help the team regardless.
Georgia is also getting a lift with the return of Geno, who started his third straight game Saturday, and had a career-high seven points. Fox said he was starting Geno because he liked his defense at the start of games, and the Bulldogs have gotten off to good starts each game.
Frazier’s old form
One more reason for hope for Georgia: Frazier had 10 points, the most in six games. That dates to when he initially injured his hand, which he played through, only to miss one game with a concussion.
“I felt finally in rhythm. I felt healthy,” said Frazier, who made two 3-pointers on Saturday. “It feels good to actually play well, finally. As a player I’m obsessed with playing well, so when I haven’t as of late I just wanted to get in a good rhythm and get good shots, and that’s what happened.”
Frazier also had a team-high five assists, one of which was debatable: An alley-oop pass that Yante Maten threw down, but which could also have been an airball shot by Frazier.
Frazier said it was indeed a pass – but that he thought he was throwing it to Thornton, and not Maten.
“I probably would have shot it knowing it was Yante but I thought it was Marcus, so that’s why I threw it,” Frazier said. “But yeah it was definitely a pass.”