Struggling UGA men’s hoops to face No. 1 Indiana in Legends Classic

Georgia has not exactly taken flight to begin the season.

The Bulldogs dropped two home games to teams from non-major conferences last week. The task of rebuilding confidence gets much tougher to begin this week as Georgia takes on No. 1-ranked Indiana today.

“I don’t think our group is a team that’s established great confidence yet because they’re still learning how to win and how to play,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I’m not overly concerned with how confident we are because we believe in ourselves. We may not have that swagger yet that a confident team has. I think the challenge for us is to continue to look at ourselves and look at some of the errors that have cost us games.”

Georgia (1-2) plays Indiana (3-0) in the first round of the championship bracket of the Progressive Legends Classic today. Tipoff is at 5:50 p.m. at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Georgia will play either Georgetown (2-0) or UCLA (3-0) in the next round on Tuesday night. The consolation game tips off at 7:30 p.m. with the championship to follow.

Georgia comes off of back-to-back losses to Youngstown State (68-56) and Southern Mississippi (62-60 in overtime) at Stegeman Coliseum in the first two games of the Legends Classic. Although Georgia did not play particularly well in either game, it showed some improvement against Southern Miss, extending the Eagles to overtime before falling.

“(Southern Miss) for instance we didn’t do well at the free throw line was very costly to us,” Fox said. “When you play a team like IU (Indiana) you obviously have a lot of things to deal with. You’re going to have to play very, very well at both ends of the court to have a chance to win.”

Indiana has hit the ground running to start the season. The Hoosiers have averaged 94.3 points a game in beating Bryant (97-54), North Dakota State (87-61) and Sam Houston State (99-45).

“We’re very impressed with the tournament,” Indiana assistant coach Tim Buckley said. “I don’t think that North Dakota State or Sam Houston State are going to show you the kind of basketball that they’re capable of playing until the year moves along. We felt like we played very well in both of those games and did a very good job on the defensive end and also offensively. We did a really good job of sharing the basketball and taking advantage of the guys who can score who are on the floor. Usually we have about four or five guys at any given time who can shoot it or drive it and make good decisions. We’ve done a very good job of playing good team basketball.”

Georgia has struggled on offense most of the early going. Georgia is shooting 37 percent from the field, including 29.2 percent from the 3-point line. Georgia has also left some points at the free throw line, converting just 63.8 percent. Georgia hit just 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) of its free throws in the loss to Southern Miss.

“For us it’s about looking at ourselves first and making sure we’re playing as efficiently and effectively in the areas that we can control before we worry about focusing on how we’re going to play against the Hoosiers,” Fox said.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been Georgia’s bright spot so far this season. The sophomore guard has led the team in scoring in all three games. He leads the team in scoring (20.3 points a game), rebounding (6.0 a game) and steals (12).

One of Georgia’s biggest deficiencies has been inside. The Bulldogs were outscored in the paint 58-26 and out-rebounded 78-58 in the last two games. Georgia will be bolstered by the return of last year’s starting forward Donte’ Williams who missed the first two games because of disciplinary reasons.

“Donte’ was back (Thursday) night (against Southern Miss) and I don’t think he played particularly well,” Fox said. “Maybe a little bit rusty and out of rhythm. Obviously, he was a key player for us a year ago and played significant minutes every night last year. Once he gets back into rhythm, he’ll really help us.”

One of Georgia’s potential second-round opponents is UCLA, which has a pair of freshman from Atlanta. Jordan Adams leads the Bruins in scoring at 24.0 points a game. He is the first freshman in the history of UCLA to score at least 20 points in each of the first three games of the season. Freshmen were not eligible during most of the John Wooden championship years, which disqualifies eventual hall of famers such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Tony Parker was Georgia’s primary recruiting target last year before signing with UCLA. Parker averages 6.7 points a game but comes off of an 12-point, five-rebound performance in the Bruins’ 100-70 win against James Madison on Thursday.

“Tony had his best game of the first three games so far (Thursday) night (against James Madison),” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “He’s a kid that’s got a lot of up-side and he’s just going to keep getting better. He’s really working hard. He’s doing a good job with his body.”

Georgia vs. Indiana

Legends Classic

When: 5:30 p.m. Monday in the first round of the championship bracket of the Legends Classic. Georgia will play either Georgetown or UCLA in the second round. Consolation tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday followed by the championship game.

Where: Barclay’s Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Radio: WRFC 960-AM.

Television: ESPNU

Records: Georgia is 1-2, Indiana is 3-0.

Rankings: Indiana is No. 1, Georgia is unranked.

Season at a glance: Georgia has lost two in a row at home and lost to Southern Mississippi on Thursday 62-60 in overtime. Indiana beat Sam Houston State 99-45 also on Thursday.

Probable starting lineups

Indiana: F Cody Zeller (7-0, 240, So., 17.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg); F Christian Watford (6-9, 232, Sr., 14.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg); G Jordan Hulls (6-0, 182, Sr., 100 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Kevin Ferrell (6-0, 178, Fr., 5.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Victor Oladipo (6-5, 214, Jr., 8.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg).

Georgia: F: Marcus Thornton (6-8, 235, Jr., 4.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Nemanja Djurisic (6-8, 230, So., 9.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg); C John Florveus (6-11, 240, Sr., 3.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg); G Vincent Williams (6-0, 165, Sr., 4.7 ppg, 1.3 apg); Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6-5, 205, 20.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg).

Series record: Indiana leads 3-0.

Last meeting: Indiana won 74-52 at the Sugar Bowl Classic in 1976.

Noteworthy: Georgia has never beaten a No. 1-ranked team in 14 tries in its history. … Sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leads Georgia in both scoring and rebounding at 20.3 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. … The last time Georgia played in New York City it lost to St. John’s in the 2009 SEC-Big East Challenge. … Former Georgia guard Sundiata Gaines is from Queens and forrmger Georgia forward Bob Lienhard is from the Bronx. … The ESPN broadcast team will include former Indiana coach Bob Knight. … Indiana is out-rebounding opponents by 17 a game so far this season. It’s also hitting 81 percent of its free throws. … Georgia could see UCLA in the second game. UCLA has forward Tony Parker who was one of the Bulldogs’ top recruiting targets for the 2012 class but signed with the Bruins.

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