Last week, Georgia exorcized some demons by winning its first game in an opponent’s gym in more than a year.
This week, the unbeaten Bulldogs go to the Old Spice Classic full of confidence and ready to test themselves against a panel of fellow postseason contenders.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence, but the best thing about it is we know we’ve got a lot of room to improve, too,” Georgia guard Dustin Ware said. “We’ve got a lot of ways to grow, but we’re still finding ways to win ballgames. So we’re feeling good.”
Georgia (3-0) plays Notre Dame (4-0) in a first-round matchup of unbeatens at 7 p.m. today at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Fla. Other teams in the Classic include Boston College (2-1), Texas A&M (3-0), Wisconsin (2-1), Manhattan (2-1), No. 21-ranked Temple (2-0) and California (2-0).
Second-round games will be held on Friday. After a day off on Saturday, the final round will take place on Sunday.
“It shows we can win games in pressure situations,” Ware said. “We’re going to have to get used to doing that, winning tight games against good opponents, even on the road, if we’re going to try to become the team we want to become.”
Georgia has started the season 3-0 for the first time since going 5-0 to begin the 2001-02 season.
All three of those games where close decisions played without leading returning scorer Trey Thompkins, who has been out with a high ankle sprain. Thompkins is doubtful for this weekend, but his status could upgrade soon.
“Good news today: Trey Thompkins was cleared to do more in practice,” Georgia coach Mark Fox tweeted on Tuesday. “Bad news today: We practiced like dirt.”
Without Thompkins, Georgia won 61-59 at St. Louis last Saturday on a buzzer-beating shot by Jeremy Price to snap an 11-game losing skid on an opposing floor.
“We’ve had three games that will hopefully help us down the road,” Fox said on Monday. “There’s not been any garbage time out there. We’ve had 120 minutes of competitive games and especially without Trey. We’ve had some battles that hopefully will be advantageous to us down the line.”
Georgia trailed at halftime and has been behind in the last five minutes in all of its games so far. The most impressive comeback occurred at St. Louis when the Billikens led 44-30 early in the second half.
“It especially feels good to get a road win because that’s all we heard about last year was how we’d always been defeated on the road,” Georgia guard Gerald Robinson said. “So it feels good to get that win so we don’t have that vibe around us starting off the season.
“It gives us confidence to come back knowing that no game is ever over. We’ve been down a lot, but we pulled it together and got the win.”
Georgia’s quality of opponent will trend upward at the Old Spice Classic. Georgia’s three wins have come against teams with a combined 4-8 record. The tournament field has a combined record of 20-3, including Notre Dame, Georgia and three other unbeatens.
“Winning on the road was something we wanted to address this year,” Ware said. “We were kind of sick of hearing about how we’d not won on the road and now that we’ve gotten it out of the way, we’re looking to continue the rest of the season.”
Notre Dame has won all four of its games by at least 21 points. But all four of those opponents came from small conferences and the games were all played in South Bend, Ind.
“We’re excited about playing in the event but we’re going to have our hands full,” Fox said. “Some of the advantages to playing in something like this is you’re going to play some really good teams. You’re going to add to your strength of schedule. You get the national exposure. The kids get to experience a special event and there’s a lot of great things with it.”
Georgia vs. Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic
WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
WHERE: HP Field House, Kissimmee, Fla.
RADIO: AM-960 The Ref.
RECORDS: Georgia is 3-0; Notre Dame is 4-0.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Notre Dame – F Tyrone Nash (Sr., 6-8, 232, 11.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg); F Tim Abromaitis (Sr., 6-8, 235, 17.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg); F Carleton Scott (Sr., 6-8, 218, 9.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg); G Scott Martin (Sr., 6-8, 219, 9.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Ben Hansbrough (Sr., 6-3, 206, 18.0 ppg, 5.8 assists per game). Georgia – F Travis Leslie (Jr., 6-4, 205, 18.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg); F Connor Nolte (Jr., 6-7, 205, 3.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg); F Jeremy Price (Sr., 6-8, 270, 17.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Dustin Ware (Jr., 5-11, 182, 8.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Gerald Robinson (Jr., 6-1, 180, 16.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg).
SERIES: This is the second meeting between the two programs.
LAST MEETING: Notre Dame beat Georgia 88-85 in 1994 at the Omni in Atlanta.
SEASON AT A GLANCE: Georgia has won its first three games for the first time since 2001-02. Last Saturday the Bulldogs broke an 11-game road losing skid by winning at St. Louis 61-59. Notre Dame has won all four of its games by at least 21 points.
NOTES: Forward Trey Thompkins is doubtful with a high ankle sprain. Connor Nolte broke his nose in the first half against St. Louis, but is expected to play with a protective mask this weekend. Nolte has started the first three games in place of Thompkins. … Georgia has not led a game at halftime this season. … Jeremy Price has made a major impact in the closing minutes of two wins. His personal eight-point run against Mississippi Valley State helped Georgia rally for a 72-70 victory. He hit a buzzer-beating shot at St. Louis to close out a 61-59 win. … Notre Dame’s closest margin of victory this season is 21 points against Liberty on Nov. 14. … Notre Dame will play its first game away from home this season. … Fighting Irish guard Ben Hansbrough is the younger brother of former North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough and a transfer from Mississippi State. … The second round of the Old Spice Classic will be held on Friday. After taking Saturday off, the tournament will conclude on Saturday.
Other teams at the Old Spice Classic
Players to Watch: G Reggie Jackson (18.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg); F Corey Raji (14.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Joe Trapani (13.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
Players to Watch: F Nathan Walkup (14.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg); F Khris Middleton (12.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg); F David Loubeau (11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
Players to Watch: F Jon Leuer (18.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg); G Jordan Taylor (16.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Josh Gasser (11.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg).
Players to Watch: F George Beamon (16.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg); G Michael Alvarado (16.3 ppg, 4.3 apg); G Kidani Brutus (13.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg).
Record: 2-0, ranked No. 21.
Players to Watch: G Ramone Moore (13.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg); F Michael Eric (11.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg); G Juan Fernandez (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
Players to Watch: Jorge Gutierrez (19.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Harper Kamp (18.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg); G Gary Franklin (11.5 ppg, 3.0 apg).
All Games at HP Field House, Kissimmee, Fla.
Game 1: Boston College vs. Texas A&M, Noon.
Game 2: Wisconsin vs. Manhattan, 2 p.m.
Game 3: Georgia vs. Notre Dame, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Temple vs. California, 9 p.m.
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, Noon.
Game 6: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.
Game 8: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 7:30 p.m.
Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 11 a.m.
Game 10: Game 5 loser vs. Game 7 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 11: Game 6 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 4:30 p.m.
Championship: Game 5 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 7 p.m.