Saturday, January 23, 2010
Like a Fox: Georgia upsets Tennessee
By Mark Schlabach
In his first season as Georgia's coach, Mark Fox watched his Bulldogs play undefeated Kentucky even for 38 minutes before losing 76-68 at Rupp Arena on Jan. 9.
Georgia's Trey Thompkins led all scorers with 21 points.
Four days later, Fox saw the Bulldogs nearly knock off then-No. 23 Ole Miss at home before falling 80-76 to the Rebels. Three days later, Georgia blew a 13-point lead in the final four minutes of a 72-69 loss at Mississippi State.
All the while, Fox had to wonder if anyone in Georgia was really noticing his team's improvement. There were tons of empty seats at Stegeman Coliseum for home games. There wasn't a single UGA beat reporter at the Mississippi State game.
On Saturday, Fox was finally rewarded for his yeoman's work with his first SEC victory. The Bulldogs stunned No. 8 Tennessee 78-63 in front of a rare sold-out crowd at Stegeman Coliseum, ending a 10-game drought against the Volunteers.
It was Georgia's first win over a top-10 ranked opponent since beating No. 8 Kentucky in February 2004.
Georgia led the Vols by double digits most of the way and built its lead to as many as 24 points.
"All year long, we've just really pushed them about getting better and pushing forward," Fox said Saturday night.
Under Fox's guidance, the Bulldogs have gotten better, even though their 9-8 record (1-3 SEC) might not show it.
Georgia beat Illinois 70-67 on Dec. 19 and stunned rival Georgia Tech 73-66 on Jan. 5.
Forward Trey Thompkins, who had 21 points against UT, is turning into one of the SEC's better players. Sophomore guard Travis Leslie has become a highlight film with his high-flying dunks and an excellent all-around player. He had 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists against the Vols.
A few weeks ago, after Leslie dunked over Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins, Fox had former Georgia All-American Dominique Wilkins talk to him.
According to Fox, Wilkins told Leslie: "Hey, you're making great plays in the air. You've got to make great plays on the ground."
Just as importantly, Georgia finally got some help from its bench against UT. Freshman guard Ebuka Anyaorah scored seven points. Junior forward Jeremy Price scored nine points in a season-high 26 minutes.
"We finally got something out of our bench," Fox said. "Fatigue has been a big factor for us."
Slowly, the Bulldogs are starting to get their legs -- and confidence -- back.
"This program has been down and these kids have been beat down," Fox said. "But we have some quality wins now. It was a packed house today. It gives us credibility and momentum. Winning games like this helps us in recruiting and winning fans back. It helps us in everything."