Junior forward Nemanja Djurisic is one of Georgia‚Äôs top three scorers and is among the three Bulldogs who have seen the most minutes on the floor. He also leads the team in field goals made (4.4 per game) and 3-pointers made (1.3 per game).
But thus far this season, the 6-foot-8 bruiser from Montenegro has started only two of Georgia‚Äôs seven games.
There‚Äôs no grousing from Djurisic or second-guessing from Georgia coach Mark Fox, however, as the Bulldogs (3-4) return to the floor today for the first time in 12 days, hosting Lipscomb (4-5) at 4 p.m.
‚ÄúIn the big picture, it doesn‚Äôt matter if I start or not,‚Äù Djurisic, who‚Äôs averaging 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 23.1 minutes a game, said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve talked and (Fox) thinks that‚Äôs the best way right now and I understand, and if that‚Äôs the way I can best help the team and contribute and bring some energy and bring some scoring, that‚Äôs fine with me, as long as I can get in there.‚Äù
‚ÄúHe really has played well in that role,‚Äù Fox said of Djurisic, who has started 24 games in his career at Georgia. ‚ÄúWe were a very competitive team last year in the SEC with him in that role and this year he‚Äôs been very productive in that same situation. It works for him right now and he still gets to play a ton and it‚Äôs been a really good fit.‚Äù
Djurisic, who came into the 2013-14 season averaging 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, said that coming off the bench enables him to discern how he can best help his teammates.
‚ÄúI may be more comfortable because I see what‚Äôs going on in the first few plays and I see what I could do to help out,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúEither way, it doesn‚Äôt matter. I think I‚Äôve been playing pretty well, so I‚Äôm happy that I can help the team. Whatever way it goes, I‚Äôm OK with it.‚Äù
Teammates Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines appreciate the zeal Djurisic brings when he comes in, and Gaines pointed out that starting isn‚Äôt as critical as being on the floor with the game on the line.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a great player and he could start for any team,‚Äù Mann, who leads Georgia in scoring with 14.3 points per game, said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a great 3-point shooter, a great rebounder and a great defensive player. He just brings a lot of energy in all different elements of the game. If he starts or if he comes off the bench, either way he‚Äôs going to give us everything he can give us.‚Äù
‚ÄúI like to see him come off the bench,‚Äù Gaines, who‚Äôs averaging 12.6 points per game, added. ‚ÄúIt kind of gives us an edge offensively and defensively because he comes in with so much energy and is so productive. ‚Ä¶ If you think about it, it‚Äôs not about how you start, but how you finish. That‚Äôs a key part of the game.‚Äù
Djurisic, who started in the season opener against Wofford and in Georgia‚Äôs second game against Georgia Tech, said he doesn‚Äôt always feel as if he‚Äôs got to focus on making an immediate contribution once he hits the floor.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm confident enough that I know when I get in the game I‚Äôm ready to contribute,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt feel like a bench player and I know I can do things to help the team, so I try to take advantage of that as soon as I get in.‚Äù
Fox didn‚Äôt rule out the idea of Djurisic returning to the starting lineup, but he‚Äôs been pleased with the forward‚Äôs play through the first seven games.
‚ÄúAs long as he‚Äôs productive in the role he‚Äôs in and the guys in front of him who are starting ‚Äî Donte‚Äô (Williams) and Marcus (Thornton) ‚Äî are playing well in their roles, I don‚Äôt think I would change it. But there may be situations ‚Äî matchup-driven or injury-driven ‚Äî that lead us to start him but that would be a game-by-game situation.‚Äù
In discussing his team‚Äôs absence from the Stegeman Coliseum floor, Fox admitted he‚Äôs concerned that the Bulldogs may be a bit sluggish at the beginning of today‚Äôs game.
‚ÄúI do worry about having some rust,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve had some really good practices until (Wednesday) and ‚Ä¶ it was evident they‚Äôre tired of practicing and would like to play a game again. It‚Äôs a long break ‚Äî longer than I probably would like ‚Äî but we got a lot of things done. But you do worry about having a little rust out there.‚Äù
LIPSCOMB AT GEORGIA
WHEN/WHERE: 4 p.m. today/Stegeman Coliseum.
TV/RADIO: CSS/The Ref 960-AM.
RECORDS: Lipscomb is 4-5. Georgia is 3-4.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Lipscomb ‚Äî G Khion Sankey (Sr., 6-5, 5.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg); G Talbott Denny (So., 6-6, 6.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G J.C. Hampton (RFr., 6-1, 13.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F Martin Smith (Jr., 6-4, 16.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg); F Malcolm Smith (Jr., 6-5, 13.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Georgia ‚Äî F Marcus Thornton (Jr., 6-8, 6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Cameron Forte (So., 6-7, 6.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg); F Donte‚Äô Williams (Sr., 6-9, 5.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg); G Charles Mann (So., 6-5, 14.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg), G Kenny Gaines (So., 6-3, 12.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg).
SERIES: This is the first time Georgia and Lipscomb have played.
SEASON AT A GLANCE: The Bisons sustained a 73-69 loss on Dec. 7 at Murray State. The Bulldogs‚Äô last outing was an 87-56 victory over Chattanooga on Dec. 2 at Stegeman Coliseum.
NOTEWORTHY: Georgia‚Äôs first players off the bench are Nemanja Djurisic (11.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Brandon Morris (9.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg). ‚Ä¶ In Georgia‚Äôs victory over Chattanooga 12 days ago, Djurisic led the way with 14 points in 17 minutes of play, followed by Juwan Parker (11 points) and Kenny Gaines (10 points). ‚Ä¶ After today‚Äôs game, Georgia will host Gardner-Webb at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19. ‚Ä¶ Lipscomb‚Äôs top subs are Josh Williams (7.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg) and Carter Sanderson (8.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg). ‚Ä¶ On Monday, Lipscomb‚Äôs Martin Smith was named Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week, scoring 24 points in a victory over Tennessee Tech and 21 points in a loss at Murray State; he ranked second in the conference in scoring. ‚Ä¶ Martin and Malcom Smith are twins. … In 2012-13, the Bisons were 12-18 overall and 7-11 in the conference. ‚Ä¶ Casey Alexander is in his first season coaching Lipscomb.