Bulldogs, Jackets eye bragging rights tonight

Backyard bragging rights will be on the line today when Georgia and Georgia Tech renew their basketball rivalry.

Georgia point guard Dustin Ware, right, will help lead the Bulldogs against rival Georgia Tech when they visit the Yellow Jackets tonight at 7 in Atlanta.
Richard Hamm

Most of Georgia’s roster hails from Atlanta and many players from both sides have squared off against their opponents tonight well before they became Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs.

"I’ve got a lot of family there and I’m kind of cool with all their players," said Georgia’s Travis Leslie, a Decatur native. "If we get the win, I can talk a lot of trash."

Georgia (5-2) will play Georgia Tech (4-3) at 7 p.m. at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Of Georgia’s 12 players on its roster, 10 come from the greater Atlanta area and are familiar with several of the Yellow Jackets after playing high school, summer league and pickup ball.

"We’re all friends with each other," said Georgia forward and College Park native Chris Barnes. "In the summer we all hang out. We hang out during the year. So just to win the game, you’ve got those bragging rights throughout the year until the next game comes up. So whoever wins can hold it over the persons’ heads the whole year."

The home team has won all but one game since the rivalry moved to its current home-and-home format after the 1995 season. Georgia scored the lone road victory with a 75-70 decision in 2000 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Last season, Georgia beat then-No. 20 Georgia Tech 73-66 in Athens.

"It’s a big thing because when you’re in Atlanta, all you hear is Georgia Tech this and Georgia Tech that," Barnes said. "I went to Georgia so I’ve got to represent my school. If we get this win, it’s going to be pretty big and I can go back and start bragging about how we beat them in their gym."

Georgia freshman Donte’ Williams and Georgia Tech sophomore Mfon Udofia played together at Miller Grove. Georgia Tech redshirt freshman Daniel Miller originally signed with Georgia but opted out and joined the Yellow Jackets.

"It’s big, we all know those guys," said Georgia guard Dustin Ware of Powder Springs. "It’s been a big rivalry for a long time. Now we’re just focusing on playing well. We know a lot of those guys. Georgia Tech’s had a great program, they’ve had a great history in the ACC."

"But we’re not really focused on the history of it. We’re just trying to get another win."

Today’s game is a bit of a departure from recent scheduling. The game will take place while school is still in session. In the last four years, the game was played during the semester break.

"We think it’s healthy for us to play Tech," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "I kind of spearheaded the movement to have the game when the students are in session. That’s one thing I was pretty publically adamant about last year. We should play when the students are in session and maybe make it a more hostile environment than if you have the game at Christmas time."

Atlanta is a fertile area for prospects, so players’ bragging rights can turn into recruiting tools for the most recent winner in the series.

"They’re a pretty good program and pretty well coached," Barnes said. "If you get the W, it would be really good for recruiting because a lot of guys from Atlanta think Georgia Tech is the better school because they’ve had the better program. But our program is on the rise right now. If they see us win the game, it would be good for our recruiting to show that Georgia has made a big turnaround."

Georgia at Georgia Tech

WHEN: 7 p.m. today.

WHERE: Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

TV: ESPN2.

RADIO: AM-1340 WGAU.

RECORDS: Georgia is 5-2; Georgia Tech is 4-3.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Georgia Tech – F Glen Rice Jr. (So., 6-5, 206, 11.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg); C Daniel Miller (Fr., 6-11, 258, 3.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg); G Brian Oliver (So., 6-6, 220, 14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg); G Iman Shumpert (Jr., 6-5, 209, 13.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg); G Mfon Udofia (So., 6-2, 207, 9.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg). Georgia – F Travis Leslie (Jr., 6-4, 205, 15.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg); F Trey Thompkins (Jr., 6-10, 240, 16.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg); F Jeremy Price (Sr., 6-8, 270, 11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg); G Dustin Ware (Jr., 5-11, 182, 6.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G Gerald Robinson (Jr., 6-1, 180, 15.4 ppg, 5.3 apg).

SERIES: Georgia Tech leads 101-85.

LAST MEETING: Georgia beat then-No. 20 Georgia Tech 73-66 last season in Athens.

SEASON AT A GLANCE: Of Georgia’s five wins, four have been by three points or less, including last Friday’s 66-64 victory against UAB. It was Georgia’s only home game in a 32-day span from Nov. 16 to Dec. 18 after final exams. … Georgia Tech has lost two in a row, both against major-conference opponents Syracuse (80-76) and Northwestern (91-70).

NOTES: The start of Georgia’s Dec. 31 game against Eastern Kentucky at Stegeman Coliseum has been moved to 1 p.m. so it won’t conflict with the football team’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff in the Liberty Bowl. The game was originally scheduled for 2 p.m. … Today’s game could be of particular importance to build a nonconference resume for the postseason. Georgia is 1-1 against major-conference opponents this season and has lost to mid-major at-large contender Temple. Georgia Tech is 0-2 against major-conference opponents and has also lost to Kennesaw State 89-63 out of the Atlantic Sun Conference. … This is the last game before final exams begin on Thursday. … Trey Thompkins needs 33 points to reach 1,000 for his career. … Travis Leslie shot a season-low 2-for-9 and scored four points against UAB. … Sherrard Brantley tied a career high with eight points against UAB. … Georgia Tech has not played in a week since losing to Northwestern in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. … Georgia will try to avoid the men’s-women’s sweep in Atlanta. Georgia Tech’s women beat the Lady Bulldogs 69-53 on Sunday at Georgia Tech. … Oliver leads Georgia Tech in 3-point shooting (35.7 percent) and rebounds (6.4).

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