Georgia played last season without many places to go if the front-line forwards needed relief.
In the early going of this season, sophomores John Cannon and Tim Dixon have provided a boost off of the bench for Georgia.
“It’s great this year,” Cannon said. “Last year, I was down on myself. But things seem to be coming together this year. I’ve had a chance to contribute more and help my teammates. I’m a little older this year. I’m more mobile this year. I had a little too much weight on me last year and I’ve lost that and it’s helped.”
Georgia (2-4) will hit the road to play South Florida (4-2) tonight in the SEC-Big East Challenge. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at Tampa’s Sun Dome.
“I feel much better now because I get to actually play and experience how it is on the court,” Dixon said. “It’s a lot different. I’m scoring the ball and rebounding a lot better. The coaches have been getting after me about scoring and rebounding. I think I’m scoring better. We’re doing a lot of hook shoots in practice and I kind of like that.”
Both Cannon and Dixon played sparingly as freshmen last season. But so far this year, their time on the court has picked up and so have their statistics.
“They’re light years ahead of where they were a year ago,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I think both of them are more comfortable. They’re both finishing some plays for us. They’re much improved and they’ll continue to grow throughout the season. They finish plays on the interior. I say they’re more comfortable but they’re not yet comfortable. But both of them have the ability to score the ball and that’s welcome for us.”
Cannon scored a career-high eight points last week against UCLA. Dixon is averaging 13.8 minutes a game. He played 19 minutes and scored a career-high eight points against Youngstown State. Last Friday against East Tennessee State, Dixon scored four points and blocked three shots in 14 minutes as Georgia broke a four-game losing skid with a 54-38 win.
“We needed to be more physical and more productive up front,” Fox said. “Last year we were so young and so thin physically, that’s very important for us as we progress.”
One of Cannon’s keys has been a big drop in his weight. Cannon, who stands 6-foot-10, weighed about 260 pounds much of last season. But this season he has dropped down to about 240 pounds and the increased mobility has made a difference.
“It was hard to try to move around with all that weight,” Cannon said. “This year I’m down so it’s a lot easier for me to move around and I play defense better. It’s great to be able to help out so that way we have a lot of depth. It’s great to be able to give the starting lineup a rest so that way we can always be fresh when we’re in there.”
One of the offensive keys for Dixon and Cannon has been the development of the hook shot. Both have shown an aggressive attitude toward putting up hooks with either hand.
“The hook shot is something we’ve really been working on in practice every day,” Dixon said. “I really like the hook shot.”
Georgia at South Florida
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Sun Dome, Tampa, Fla.
Radio: WRFC 960-AM.
Records: Georgia is 2-4, South Florida is 4-2.
Season at a glance: Georgia broke a four-game losing streak by beating East Tennessee State 54-38 last Friday. South Florida has won two in a row and comes off of a 63-54 win against Stetson on Monday.
Probable starting lineups:
South Florida: F Victor Rudd (Jr., 6-9, 220, 7.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Zach LeDay (Fr., 6-7, 200, 4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (Jr., 6-8, 200, 13.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg); G Jawanza Poland (Sr., 6-4, 185, 11.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Anthony Collins (So., 6-1, 175, 7.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg).
Georgia: F Marcus Thornton (6-8, 235, Jr., 3.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg); F Nemanja Djurisic (6-8, 230, So., 8.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg); C Donte’ Williams (Jr., 6-9, 225, 7.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg); G Vincent Williams (6-0, 165, Sr., 6.2 ppg, 3.0 apg); Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6-5, 205, 17.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg).
Series record: Georgia and South Florida have never met.
Last meeting: Georgia and South Florida have never met.
Noteworthy: This is the third straight appearance for Georgia in the SEC-Big East Challenge. Georgia has lost two straight in the series, St. John’s in 2009 and Cincinnati last season. … Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has led Georgia in scoring in every game so far this season. … Georgia has had a week off from competition after playing six games in 14 days to start the season. … After tonight and Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs will take an 11-day break from games for final exams. … Georgia is 10-13against the current members of the Big East Conference. … South Florida is coached by former Arkansas coach Stan Heath. … South Florida point guard Anthony Collins missed Monday’s game against Stetson because of a sore calf muscle but Heath said he should be ready for Georgia. … South Florida senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick has scored in double digits in three straight games.