Mark Fox's Dawgs tip off their second of four games in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic tonight in Stegeman Coliseum when they host the Furman Paladins at 7, televised on the SEC Network.
Georgia dispatched UNC-Asheville on Monday to even up their record at 1-1 on the year, same as our friends coming from Greenville, SC tonight. Furman fell at home to Presbyterian in their season opener last Friday before dropping 84 on UAB in Birmingham Monday. No matter what happens tonight, Georgia will be the one heading to Kansas City next week, with George Washington on Monday followed by either Kansas or Alabama-Birmingham on Tuesday. Oh, and tomorrow night in Kansas City, the College Basketball Hall of Fame inducts 8 new members including our very own Dominique Wilkins and Hugh Durham.
But back to tonight's game, where Mark Fox used a new starting lineup after going with a veteran crew in Clemson. Derek Ogbeide and Yante Maten are almost sure to still be the starting pair inside for the Dawgs, while Juwan Parker and JJ Frazier work on the outside. But sophomore PG Turtle Jackson got his first career start on Monday after senior SF Kenny Paul Geno was among the first five on the floor last Friday.
Georgia still struggled offensively against those other Bulldogs, so while I'd expect Jackson to get another start tonight, Fox could easily go back to Geno. He could also try fellow sophomore E'Torrion Wilridge, or perhaps see what one of the newcomers, junior Pape Diatta or freshmen Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris, can do.
Either way, expect them all to get action at some point, along with backup big men Mike Edwards and Houston Kessler off the bench. But while the defense has been solid so far, the offense has struggled averaging 62 points per game. That is something that will need to improve tonight to get a W against a veteran squad that knows how to fill up the bucket.
The Paladins start four juniors and a senior in coach Niko Medved's fourth season with Furman. He's taken them from 9 to 11 to 19 wins last year, and returned 6 of their top 7 players for this season. F Matt Rafferty has yet to play after offseason back surgery, and is likely still out. for tonight's contest though.
6'2 junior G Devin Sibley was the only one of the six returning players to average double figures last year, but every starter put in over 10 points against UAB. They are a well balanced team, with 6'6 Icelandic big man Kris Acox the only one not a threat from three point land, so they will test our perimeter defense extensively.
6'7 Geoff Beans is more SF than PF, and also has hit 7 of 10 3s in their first two games, so the Dawgs should be able to use their size advantage inside. Fellow junior and G Daniel Fowler is the other big scoring threat in the starting lineup after Sibley, averaging 18.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.5 rebounds while hitting 6 of 10 3s.
Make no mistake, this is a very good team that plays how it wants when it wants (something we've had a problem with in two games so far), and is a legit threat to pull an upset tonight. We'll need a good crowd, and some of the supporting cast to step up alongside Frazier and Maten, to head towards Steak City with a winning record.
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