Dustin Ware had to carry quite the load as Georgia’s primary ball-handler last year in coach Mark Fox’s first season.
"This year it’s a little bit different," Ware said.
Ware still is asked to run the Bulldogs’ offense and, in his words, "organize everything that’s going on out there," but transfer Gerald Robinson has given the Bulldogs not only some added scoring punch, but taken the pressure off Ware as a distributor.
The result: Ware enters tonight’s game against No. 24 Florida ranked second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.12, trailing only Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor at 4.14. Ware has 70 assists and 17 turnovers.
"It’s definitely just different having Gerald out there on the floor," said Ware, a 5-foot-11 junior from North Cobb Christian School. "Just another guy that can do similar things. It just gives you that element that you can just relax a little bit when you’ve got somebody out there in the backcourt with you."
Robinson is averaging 4.2 assists per game and Ware 3.9.
In the last four games, Ware has 24 assists and no turnovers and has made eight 3-pointers.
"He’s still running our team," Fox said. "I think his assist numbers are probably up a little bit, his turnover numbers are down because he now has someone with Gerald that can take some of the load off.
"They’ve coexisted very well together," Fox added. "I think they complement each other very well and they’ve become pretty interchangeable, which has allowed us to be a very effective offensive team."
Georgia leads the Southeastern Conference in assists at 15.6 per game after ranking sixth last year.
In Georgia’s 86-64 win Saturday against Mississippi State, Robinson, who transferred from Tennessee State, had 17 points and five assists, and Ware put up these numbers: nine points on 3-of-3 shooting all from 3-point range, with four rebounds, a steal, six assists and no turnovers.
Ware and Robinson lead the team, with each averaging 31.2 minutes per game.
"I think they have a good understanding of what each one of them can do and how to play together," Fox said.
Ware leads Georgia with 28 3-pointers and is hitting 41.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
"One of the things that has probably helped them is Ware, a guy who has made a lot of big 3-point shots and big plays throughout his career, they’ve been able to slide him a little bit more to the two," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "He’s probably more comfortable there and Robinson is a guy that can go off the dribble, he can shoot 3s."
"They’re two different players," Georgia forward Trey Thompkins said. "Gerald’s attack and a scorer. Dustin’s more laid back. They play off each other. It’s good because we have a balance in the backcourt."
Ware averages 7.4 points per game, but he’s come up with his share of big shots.
He made seven 3-pointers in Georgia’s 73-72 win at Georgia Tech and hit a clutch 3 with 59 seconds left to tie Tennessee a week ago before the Bulldogs lost at the buzzer.
"When you’re a little kid playing in the driveway, you always think of those situations," Ware said.
The only other point guard Georgia had last year was Vincent Williams, who averaged fewer than 10 minutes a game and had nearly as many turnovers (19) in SEC play as assists (22).
Ware "had to handle the pressure really 35 minutes a game probably with just a freshman behind him who never played," Fox said. "He had a former walk-on (Ricky McPhee) as his backcourt partner who was also playing 30-plus minutes a game who wasn’t the ball-handler, so it all fell on his shoulders last year. Physically and emotionally that was a big burden to bear."
No. 24 Florida at Georgia
► WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
► WHERE: Stegeman Coliseum
► TV/RADIO: ESPN/960-AM The Ref
► RECORDS: Florida is 15-4, 4-1 SEC; Georgia is 14-4, 3-2 SEC.
► PROBABLE STARTERS: Florida – F Alex Tyus (Sr., 6-8, 220, 9.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Chandler Parsons (Sr., 6-10, 215, 10.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg); C Vernon Macklin (RSr., 6-10, 240, 10.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg); G Kenny Boynton (So., 6-2, 183, 12.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg); G Erving Walker (Jr., 5-8, 171, 13.7 ppg, 3.2 apg).
Georgia – F Travis Leslie (Jr., 6-4, 205, 14.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg); F Trey Thompkins (Jr., 6-10, 240, 17.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg); F Chris Barnes (Sr., 6-8, 240, 3.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G Dustin Ware (Jr., 5-11, 182, 7.4 ppg, 3.9 apg); G Gerald Robinson (Jr., 6-1, 180, 14.1 ppg, 4.2 apg).
► SERIES: Florida leads 103-98. The Gators have won 12 of the last 14, but the teams split the season series last year and the Bulldogs have won two straight in Athens.
► LAST MEETING: Georgia edged the Gators 78-76 on Feb. 27, 2010 in Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs built a 15-point halftime lead and held on for the win when Albert Jackson deflected a pass out of bounds with 0.1 seconds left. Thompkins scored 20 points for Georgia. Parsons had 29 for the Gators.
► SEASON AT A GLANCE: Florida, which returned all five starters from last year’s NCAA tournament team, has won seven of its last eight games and is in first place in the SEC East, a game ahead of Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina. The Gators routed Arkansas 75-43 on Saturday after surviving at Auburn, 45-40. Florida is playing its third game in the last six days. Georgia bounced back from losing at the buzzer to Tennessee last Tuesday to whip Mississippi State 86-64 on Saturday. Georgia dominated the boards and shot a season-best 57.9 percent on 3-pointers. "I think they have the ingredients and the making right now of being a special and great team because they have answers at about every spot," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
► NOTEWORTHY: Georgia expects its fourth straight home sellout tonight by tip-off. Fewer than 500 reserved seats remained available as of late Monday afternoon. "One of the things that I felt was important here was that we re-establish an atmosphere in the building and create some kind of home-court advantage," coach Mark Fox said. "What our fans have done for us is really create the college basketball experience that is so prevalent in our game." … Georgia last had four straight sellouts in 2002-03 when it sold out its final nine games of the season. … The Gators, who rank 24th in the AP poll and 23rd in the coaches’ poll, are 4-0 on the road with wins at Florida State, Xavier, Tennessee and Auburn. … Georgia is No. 42 in the NCAA’s latest official RPI. Florida is 19th. … Georgia is a No. 9 seed in ESPN’s projected NCAA tournament bracket. Florida is a projected No. 5 seed.