Georgia basketball aims for deep SEC tourney run, ‘Crazier things have happened’
ATHENS -- First-year Georgia coach Mike White started the season with a vision, and now he’s ending it with hope.
The Bulldogs will take the floor at the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville looking to break a five-game losing streak and salvage some pride.
Georgia, as the No. 11 seed, has drawn last-place LSU in the Wednesday night late game (9 p.m., SEC Network) in the single-elimination tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
The Bulldogs (16-15, 6-12 SEC) earned their most recent victory against this LSU team (13-18, 2-16) back on Valentine’s Day in Stegeman Coliseum.
Since then, however, both the team and the arena have been falling part, with graduation ceremonies recently canceled in Stegeman on account of a piece of the ceiling falling last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, White’s program has fallen five times in a row, and now they’l be tasked to get up one final time with hopes of a miracle SEC tourney run.
“I’d like to play well, I’d like to play really hard with a lot of pride and passion …. hopefully with an improved level of confidence offensively,” White said, “and stay connected for 40 minutes and just see where it goes from there.”
White is doing all he can to keep his team motivated, including using designated team practice time to make sure his players are getting shots up.
Typically, players work to get extra shots up on their own because there is only so much time allotted by the NCAA for supervised team work.
But White, a former player himself, knows better than anyone what his team needs.
“We’ve got to make shots; we’ve just been really struggling shooting the basketball,” White said. “We changed up our routine, our one-day-out routine from what we normally do and went really short just now.
“We’ll go a little bit longer in the arena tonight and get a ton of shots. It will be strictly shooting for 40 straight minutes, hopefully in an effort to convert at a higher level, especially from three.”
As important as Georgia’s shooting is, a season trend shows the defense is more telling.
UGA statistical expert Mike Mobley has noted the Bulldogs are 14-1 when opponents score 70 points or less — including in five of Georgia’s six SEC victories.
A win over LSU on Wednesday night would advance the Bulldogs to play Vanderbilt at 9 p.m. on Thursday.
Georgia felt it let one slip away against the Commodores earlier this season, losing 85-82 in Stegeman Coliseum.
And if the Bulldogs were to upset Vandy, they would face a Kentucky team on Friday that they beat earlier this season by a 75-68 count in Athens.
“Crazier things have happened, that’s literally the phrase that I used yesterday in the locker room,” White said, “along with ‘Anything can happen come conference tournament time.’ ‘We’re capable,’ ‘Stranger things have happened,’ all of those things.”
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