High School Sports

Kenny Gaines hoping to get out of recent slump, help Georgia produce wins

Georgia guard Kenny Gaines (12) drives past Vanderbilt forward Jeff Roberson during the first half of Saturday's game.
Georgia guard Kenny Gaines (12) drives past Vanderbilt forward Jeff Roberson during the first half of Saturday's game. AP

ATHENS -- Kenny Gaines knows the formula isn't difficult.

Mired in a recent slump, Gaines has only reached double-figures in points once in the past five games, which includes a scoreless showing in a win over Mississippi State. Gaines has a simple way to fix his recent shooting woes, and it isn't anything too hard to understand.

"It's as simple as you gotta put the ball in the hole," Gaines said. "It's not much deeper than that."

Gaines, a senior, is entering the final stretch of his college career. Georgia (14-11, 7-7 SEC) has four remaining games on its regular-season schedule, beginning with Wednesday's road trip to Auburn (10-16, 4-10). Gaines, along with fellow senior Charles Mann, began his final season with expectations of taking the Bulldogs back to the NCAA Tournament.

At this stage of the season, it's unlikely for Georgia to do so, barring a scenario where the Bulldogs go on an unforeseen run from this point and deep into the SEC Tournament.

If Georgia is going to do so, Gaines will need to play a big part of that, especially from a scoring perspective. Gaines said he feels like he has played well and that maybe too much attention has been placed on his lack of point production.

But given the fact that Georgia has only had four consistent scorers this season, Gaines' presence is needed most games on the offensive end if the Bulldogs are to have a shot at winning.

Mann's in the same boat as a senior leader and has also struggled scoring the ball lately.

Much like Gaines, Mann has scored fewer than 10 points three times in the past five games. The two scored five points apiece in Saturday's 80-67 loss to Vanderbilt. The two players have been an integral part to Georgia's success through the years and have to be go-to options each time out down the stretch if the Bulldogs are to climb their way back into the postseason picture.

"We're dependent on those guys being productive," head coach Mark Fox said. "They've been very unselfish. They've got to complete some plays, they've got to rebound and really play as complete of games as they can because they're seniors and they should be, at this point of their career, playing well on both ends. What we don't need them to do is play out of character. We need to get them back to being themselves."

At the same time, it's not just Gaines and Mann who need to raise their level of play. In the past six games, Georgia has only shot the ball at a 40 percent clip once (vs. Mississippi State). Following both of Georgia's losses last week, sophomore forward Yante Maten said the Bulldogs spent extra time in the gym on their own accord to try and change the inconsistencies over the past month.

With time running out, Georgia's in a must-win situation in every remaining game, which is something Maten said the team has taken to heart.

"We're just trying to get our rhythm back and get back to the team we know we're capable of being," Maten said. "We have to finish more plays around the rim and get more of our shots to go down and play better on defense. Then we'll be back on track."

Gaines said there's definitely room for improvement and that he's still a believer in being able to work his way out of this recent shooting skid.

"We can always play better," Gaines said. "We had a little bit of a drop-off in our production. A few of us have been in a slight slump. But it's nothing but just playing your way out of it."

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