ATHENS – Kenny Gaines isn’t seeking any deeper reasons. He’s not using a minor injury as an excuse. Ask him about his struggles, which are coming at about the worst time, and he just chuckles.
“It’s just as simple as you’ve got to put the ball in the hole,” he said. “It’s not too much deeper than that.”
These are days of immense struggles on the offensive end for the Georgia men’s basketball, and Gaines – the team’s senior guard, and one of its top scorers – has been a major part of the problem.
Georgia is averaging 58.5 points over the past four games, down from 70.5 points per game prior to this. Gaines is averaging just 6.4 points over the past five games, down from 13.7 points per game before this stretch.
Whether Gaines and his team can pull itself out of the slump could dictate whether it salvages anything out of this disappointing season.
Georgia (14-11 overall, 7-7 in the SEC) visits Auburn on Wednesday, in what is a must-win for a couple reasons: For one, every game basically is now if the Bulldogs have any prayer, and two, losing to one of the SEC’s worst teams (Auburn is 10-16, 4-10) would be a new low.
In the past few days, a number of players have been putting in extra time in the gym, something they said they took upon themselves, trying to work out the kinks.
“We’re just trying to get our rhythm back,” sophomore forward Yante Maten said. “Get back to the team that we know we’re capable of being. We’ve just got to finish more plays around the rim, get more of our shots to go down, and play a little better on defense. Then we’ll be back on track.”
The problems are widespread, but Gaines and Charles Mann stick out, as they’re the two senior guards and two of the team’s leading scorers. The pair only had five points apiece in last Saturday’s loss at Vanderbilt, something that just can’t happen if Georgia is going to win on the road.
“Charles and Kenny have been very good players for us. And essentially the combination of the two have yielded 20-25 points just about every night for three years. So we’re dependent on those guys being productive,” head coach Mark Fox. “They’ve been very unselfish, and they’ve got to complete some plays. They’ve got to defend, they’ve got to rebound, and really play as complete a game as they can. Because they should at this point should be able to play on both ends of the court well.
“What we don’t need them to do is play out of character. We’ve just gotta get them back to being themselves.”
In Mann’s case, Fox said, that means getting him to the free throw line. Gaines is just a matter of shots going down, according to Fox and Gaines, both of whom have downplayed a bruise on his shooting hand.
Fox also said it’s not really a matter of the half-court offense, or not working the ball around enough. They’re getting the shots they want, Fox said, they just haven’t been going in.
“A few of us have been in a slight slump,” Gaines said. “But it’s nothing but playing your way out of it.”