Calling Georgia's 2-0 SEC start improbable is most likely an understatement. After all there was little to get excited about following a 6-6 start in the nonconference that included losses against average to good teams and wins that were often a struggle against lesser opponents.
That is what made Georgia's win in Missouri to snap the Tigers' 26-game home winning streak so impressive. It was clearly unexpected. In many ways we wouldn't have been surprised if the Bulldogs came crashing back to earth on Saturday against Alabama. Yet Georgia pulled off another strong defensive effort in a 66-58 win over the Crimson Tide to grab their first 2-0 start in conference play in over a decade.
Following Saturday's win, Fox said he and his staff talked with the team about the importance of not giving a game back at home after their upset win on the road.
"We talked about that with our team, that we could throw away Wednesday if we came out here and laid an egg," Fox said. "And so we talked about that, and I was really proud that we backed up Wednesday's win with another one."
In Missouri, Georgia had to overcome their own free throw shooting to close out the win. On Saturday they won because of their free throw shooting and their ability to get to the line against an aggressive, and often times desperate, Alabama team.
The one constant in both victories was the Bulldogs' defensive effort particularly inside. Marcus Thornton finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds combined in the two games but it has seemed like every board that he has grabbed has been crucial. He followed up a three blocked shot performance against Missouri with five more on Saturday against Alabama. For those searching for answers as to why Georgia's defense has improved over what we saw during the nonconference need look no further than Thornton.
The biggest question for this team is can they sustain this type of play? There are some good teams in the SEC but there are a lot of winnable games left on the schedule, particularly at home. Georgia's recent defensive efforts are a good sign. This isn't a case of a team making a lot of shots that they aren't used to making. The Bulldogs are playing good defense and grinding things out offensively and that could work against a lot of teams in the conference.
Georgia is 7-1 at Stegeman Coliseum this season and it is going to be paramount that they continue to play well at home and hold serve there in the SEC. After a trip to Florida on Tuesday, Georgia closes out January with home games against Arkansas and South Carolina, a trip to Rupp Arena and another home game against Vanderbilt. That is three winnable games at home to close January. It won't be easy, particularly against an Arkansas team that gave a game away to the Gators on Saturday, but it is possible.
Arkansas, South Carolina and Vanderbilt have all started 0-2 in the conference and present their own challenges but the Bulldogs need to hold serve at home. Take care of business at Stegeman while stealing a game or two on the road could turn what looked like a lost season into something else.
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