UGA men’s basketball team looks to build on latest win when it hosts Southern Cal

Wins have been hard to come by for the Georgia men’s basketball team this season.

With that in mind, maintaining momentum after Tuesday’s victory over Mercer is a priority when the Bulldogs host Southern California today.

“We’ve got keep practicing like we’ve been practicing and getting better,” Georgia forward Nemanja Djurisic said. “We’ve got to finish plays, that’s very important. We need to build confidence. That’s the main thing. We need to build confidence and this win is going to help us going into the USC game and the rest of the season.”

Georgia (3-7) will play USC (4-7) at 1:30 p.m. today in Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs are coming off of a 58-49 win against Mercer that broke a three-game losing skid.

“It was very relieving to get that win,” Georgia freshman Charles Mann said. “We had a tough start at the beginning. We had a rough schedule and lost a lot of close games in the beginning. We let games go. But winning against Mercer was a confidence booster and it was very relieving.”

Georgia has yet to win back-to-back games this season. It lost four straight after beating Jacksonville 68-62 in the season opener. After beating East Tennessee State 54-38, Georgia then lost three in a row before beating Mercer.

“We played 40 minutes finally,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We played as close to 40 minutes against Mercer as we’ve played all year. Unfortunately for this team, they’ve learned that the hard way. We finally played pretty complete basketball for 40 minutes, and that’s what it takes to beat good college teams.”

Fox has injected some youth into the rotation in recent games. Sophomore John Cannon and Mann made their first collegiate starts on Tuesday. Fox also started freshman Brandon Morris and sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with junior Donte’ Williams. Mann played 31 minutes at point guard and scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five assists against Mercer. Freshman guard Kenny Gaines came off of the bench to score eight points in 11 minutes.

“They’ve earned their minutes,” Fox said. “They’re getting minutes that they’ve earned and they’re trying to take advantage of them. They’re still freshmen, so they’re going to make a lot of plays for both teams. But the great thing is they’re learning and getting those major minutes and recently have been very productive for us.”

The learning curve has been steep for the Bulldogs so far because of the quality of opposition. Four of Georgia’s seven losses have come against teams from major conferences and away from Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia lost to then-No. 1 Indiana 66-53 and to then-No. 11 UCLA 60-56 in the Legends Classic in New York. Georgia also has road losses at the Big East’s South Florida (64-53) and the ACC’s Georgia Tech (62-54). Georgia also has three home losses to mid-major conference representatives Youngstown State (68-56), Southern Mississippi (62-60 overtime) and Iona (81-78 overtime).

“One thing that the schedule that we have played has done for us is we’ve learned about ourselves, and not all of that is good,” Fox said. “We learned we have some weaknesses and some deficiencies, and I think it’s important for us to have some of those things exposed so we can grow and become the best team we’re capable of. I think it’s important that you learn those things before conference play starts. Unfortunately, we’ve dug ourselves a hole and it’s going to take us a long time to dig out.”

TODAY’S GAME

Southern Cal at Georgia

When: 1:30 p.m.

Where: Stegeman Coliseum.

Radio: WRFC AM-960.

TV: FSSO

Records: Georgia is 3-7, USC is 4-7.

Rankings: Both teams are unranked.

Probable starting lineups: UCS: F Dewayne Dedmon (Jr., 7-0, 255, 5.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg); F Eric Wise (Sr., 6-6, 240, 10.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg); C Omar Oraby (Jr., 7-2, 270, 7.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Jio Fontan (6-0, 175, Sr., 8.5 ppg, 5.4 apg); G Byron Wesley (So., 6-5, 210, 9.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Georgia: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (So., 6-5, 205, 17.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg); G Charles Mann (Fr., 6-4, 205, 4.8 ppg, 2.1 apg); C John Cannon (So., 6-10, 240, 3.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg) F Donte’ Williams (Jr., 6-9, 225, 6.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Brandon Morris (Fr., 6-7, 205, 2.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg).

Series record: Georgia leads 2-0.

Last meeting: Georgia won 63-59 last season in Los Angeles.

Season at a glance: Georgia broke a three-game losing streak by beating Mercer 58-49 on Tuesday. USC has lost seven of its last nine, including a 61-54 defeat to California-Irvine on Thursday.

Noteworthy: Both teams have played heavyweight schedules with six of their combined seven losses coming to teams that either have been ranked or are currently ranked in the top 25. USC has losses against Illinois (94-64), Marquette (53-53 overtime), San Diego State (66-60) and New Mexico (75-67). Georgia has losses to then-No. 1 Indiana 66-53) and UCLA (60-56). … Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leads Georgia in scoring (17.4 per game), rebounding (7.4 per game) and steals (26). … Freshman guard Charles Mann has scored in double figures the last two games for Georgia. … USC starts a pair of seven-footers, Dewayne Dedmon (7-0) and Omar Oraby (7-2). They had a combined 14 points and 10 rebounds against UC-Irvine on Wednesday. … USC point guard Jio Fontan did not play against Georgia last season because of a knee injury.

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