The Georgia Bulldogs hit it big during non-conference play by becoming only the fourth team in program history to reach double-digit wins before the New Year. Now, the Bulldogs are turning their attention to SEC play, starting with a challenger who looks poised to once again be a conference contender.
Georgia (10-3, 0-0 SEC) returns home at 6:30 PM ET tonight to host No. 22 Auburn (11-2, 1-0 SEC) in a game televised on the SEC Network. The Bulldogs enter the game after defeating the Ryder 78-72 on Wednesday; Meanwhile, the Tigers opened SEC play by defeating Florida 61-58 that same night.
Georgia coach Mike White He said that there is excitement among the players when it comes to conference play and that players come to Athens for the chance to challenge the best of the best. White said the message to his players as the SEC game gets underway is simple: Have the advantage and be ready to roll.
“You have to respond to adversity on and off the field, especially in the game because there will be so much adversity,” White said Tuesday. “There’s going to be a lot of adversity tomorrow night in different ways; offensively, defensively, foul problem, call, turnover, what have you. Run by the opposing team. I think we’re growing on that field. I think overall we’re really excited.”
The Bulldogs will host the Tigers on Wednesday night for the first of two meetings between the rivals, with the other coming in Auburn on February 1st. Georgia is hoping to play Auburn like it did last February, when the Bulldogs pushed and then not. 1 Tigers on edge ahead of Auburn point guard Wendell Green Jr He hit a late kick to leave Georgia with a 74-72 loss at home.
Georgia’s roster has undergone major changes since that game, but the returning players love to play Praline Bridges I have not forgotten the sting of that defeat.
“Which [loss] It definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. “I mean, it could have helped our season last year,” said Bridges, who averages 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. “We’ll try to get him back tomorrow night.”
The Bulldogs were badly beating the Tigers 11 months ago, but this Georgia team looks a lot better than the last Auburn team squared off.
White praised this year’s team for the way it found an offensive identity over the course of non-team play and how certain areas such as ball security and decision-making showed tangible progress. White emphasized that there was still a lot of work to do and pointed to continuing to bounce well defensively – a notable strength in the win over Ryder – as something that should happen more often.
The Bulldogs’ win over the Broncos wasn’t the most impressive for a team on the non-conference list, but there were plenty of positives. Arguably the strongest part of the win was the striker’s performance Jabri Abdel Rahimwho scored 15 points on 5 of 8 shooting from 3-point range.
“He plays with power. His intensity level has improved since the first day of training,” White said of Abdul Rahim. “He’s a better defender, he’s a better player. I think he’s got the ‘I’ll let the coach play with me’ mentality over the last couple of months and that quality that he brings to training on a daily basis has made him a huge improvement.”
“He’s got a good stroke, he can really shoot it and he’s developing other parts of his game as well, but this is where he’s improved the most – he plays hard. He mixes it up defensively and on the glass.”
Abdurrahim will no doubt be relied upon among a number of Bulldogs when they go on trial against the Tigers.
White credited teams led by Bruce Pearl for playing hard, being bums and annoying, and this year’s Auburn lineup is no different. He credited this year’s team for being strong, deep, and athletic with a great starting lineup that included a 6-foot-10. Johnny Broom, 6-foot-8 Jaylen Williams and 6-foot-6 Chris Moore. White called Auburn an “elite defensive team,” and stressed the need for the Georgia guards to appear ready to compete.
As for the Georgia players, Georgia is a guard Mardreese McBride He credited Auburn for being such a good defensive tackle and said the Bulldogs have to match his intensity in order to have a chance. Meanwhile, Bridges said Auburn is a tough team, and the physical strength will be formidable at Georgia.
The Bulldogs put together some great performances in November and December, and Bridges believes those experiences helped the team come together and feel like family. Bridges said he has told colleagues there are no nights off at the conference, and tonight the group hopes to prove that they should not be overlooked.
“I’m really excited,” Bridges said of the SEC play’s initiation. “I feel like we’re going to tell a lot of people.”