Georgia returns to the friendly confines of Stegeman Coliseum tonight for a 7:00 tipoff against SEC East foe South Carolina (ESPNU, Bulldog Radio Network).
Tonight's game follows an 0-2 road swing with relatively close losses to LSU and Baylor. It wasn't surprising to see the Red and Black lose either game, but it would have been advantageous for their tournament hopes to win at least one. As it stands now the 'Dawgs are slipping further off the wrong side of the bubble unless they can make a February run in conference play.
If the Dawgs want to get back on the winning side of the ledger against the #25 Gamecocks, keeping Yante Maten on the court would be a nice start. Early foul trouble hampered the Bulldog sophomore in both games, making him a non-factor in the second half of both losses. Maten is second on the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game, so losing him alters the Bulldog scoring attack, forces much less offensively dangerous bigs onto the floor, and generally mucks up everything Mark Fox wants to do offensively.
Getting Maten going is even more important given that the 'Cocks have a dangerous forward of their own in senior Michael Carrera, who's averaging 23.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game over the Garnet and Black's last four games. Also of concern? The Gamecocks are among the best defensive teams in the league, holding opponents to 38.4% shooting from the field (to be fair, Georgia is right behind them at 38.5%). But the specter of relentless South Carolina defense creating Bulldog turnovers has me worried about this one. We'll be back with the game thread before tipoff. Until then...