A glimmer of light in the UGA hoops darkness

Mark Fox at work aganist Illinois. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Mark Fox at work against Illinois. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

A month ago, you’d have sworn this was another 20-loss season waiting to happen. Now you’d have to say Georgia should be able win enough games to make this a respectable losing campaign, and no, that’s not an oxymoron.

The Bulldogs beat a pretty fair Illinois team in the Arena in Gwinnett on Saturday, and it was a night that began as an embarrassment. There seemed to be more Illini fans in a building that was more than half-empty — “It may seem like a road game,” Georgia coach Mark Fox told his men beforehand — but those in red wound up yelling last and loudest.

Georgia wasted a lead in the final minutes but snatched the game back at the end. “A great win for the team and the program,” Fox called it, and darned if it didn’t seem pretty huge. It kept the Bulldogs from falling below .500 — they’re 5-4 — and should serve to bolster them for SEC play.

Fox: “When you beat a good team, it makes you feel good. And we beat a really good team.”

The Illini arrived unranked, but they did go to Clemson and beat a ranked bunch of Tigers in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Against unassuming Georgia, however, Illinois was forever on the back foot. The Bulldogs led by five points in the first half by nine twice in the second.

And even when Demetri McCramey scored off a steal and made the accompanying go-ahead free throw with 35 seconds left, Fox wasn’t thinking he’d ordered his team into a delay offense a minute too soon. He was thinking sunnier thoughts. “I thought we’d find out if we were invested enough [in this game] — whether we were used to losing. This game showed signs of progress for us.”

Well, yes. But Georgia basketball fans, what few of them there are, know not to get giddy. They’ve had it bad for a good long while. The program has had six coaches (against three NCAA tournament victories) in 15 years, and over the past decade it has become the Southern standard for wretched seasons.

Georgia was 10-20 in 1999-2000, Jim Harrick’s first go-around, and 8-20 in 2004-2005, when Harrick’s recruits finally departed and Dennis Felton wa, in Year 2,  left to his own devices. And they were 12-20 last season, when Felton was fired in January and Pete Herrmann finished up. And this year didn’t seem to augur anything better.

The Bulldogs were picked to finish last in the SEC East, and they’d already managed to lose to Wofford at home. But they’d really only lost badly once — at UAB — and against Illinois they seemed better prepared and more inspired. As Illini coach Bruce Weber noted, speaking of the pro-visitor crowd: “[Georgia] played like the motivated team.”

Fox was a strange hire in the sense that he had no ties to the South, but he’s a good floor coach. (Then again, so was Felton.) The key for him will be, as ever, recruiting. He’s playing with Felton’s guys and has them playing better than they did last season under Felton, but at some point Fox will have to find his own guys.

He landed only one middling prospect in the early signing period, and he’s going to have overcome a ton of skepticism toward Georgia basketball in his own new state. (Like the sight of playing a game in Duluth, Ga., and having your fans outnumbered.)

But a victory like Saturday’s could go a ways toward turning some heads. And, if nothing else, it should give these Bulldogs the faith to win eight more games, give or take, and finish something like 13-17. But it must be noted that Harrick’s first team had big December wins over Georgia Tech and Wake Forest in the same week to get to 5-3 — and still finished with 20 losses

189 comments Add your comment

Steve

December 19th, 2009
10:21 pm

Doug

December 19th, 2009
10:30 pm

Watched the game and was impressed with the poise down the stretch. I also liked the fact that UGA’s first, second, and third option was to pound the ball into the paint instead of settling for the jump shot.

BTW Mark, that home loss to Wofford isn’t looking quite as bad after they beat South Carolina tonight.

Barkin'Dog

December 19th, 2009
10:32 pm

No way they don’t win more than 8 more Mark. I saw speed, confidence, swift passes, and DEFENSE. They will play deep into the SEC Tourney by season’s end and get an unexpected invite to the dance. Okay, maybe the NIT dance, but they will play in the PS. I love the spirit of this group, and Trey is ICE when it matters. Can’t wait to see some upsets in SEC play as well.

senoiadawgs

December 19th, 2009
10:32 pm

Watched the game on ESPNU. I was very impressed with coach Fox. He clearly had less talent minus Thompkins but his guys are really beginning to believe in the system. Love the way the offense looks with pretty average talent on the floor. This guy could bring great things to Athens basketball wise.

boots

December 19th, 2009
10:33 pm

It is a great win for the Dawgs. Recruiting really will be the key, but we can have a very good program with strong, not the best, players. Basketball is all about building a team – not having the best players, and Fox can do this. Go Dawgs!

antifelton

December 19th, 2009
10:35 pm

Dennis Felton has put this program years behind. he was awful

haha

December 19th, 2009
10:36 pm

felton was a good floor coach? hahahahahahahahahahaha! good one, mark.

hammerhead

December 19th, 2009
10:38 pm

Mark Fox may be a “strange hire” for his lack of ties to the south, but he understands basketball and apparently seems capable of motivating players (which Felton had no ability to do, rather the opposite). Georgia will improve as the season progresses even though the record may not show it (SEC East is BRUTAL). However, losing to Wofford doesn’t look so bad now – beat South Carolina tonight…

Mark, Wildcat Nation should be very concerned about John Calipari and what he may do to their program. I hope they have some folks watching him closely in Lexington. Left to his own devices, he will destroy that program… His track record speaks for itself.

As one of a very, very few Georgia basketball fans, I am very excited about what I’ve seen from Mark Fox so far… hh

Wise FOX

December 19th, 2009
10:39 pm

2nd, and I was at the game. Gooo Dawgs!

hammerhead

December 19th, 2009
10:47 pm

Mark Fox may be a “strange hire” for his lack of ties ot the south, but he understands basketball and apparently seems capable of motivating players (which Felton had no ability to do, rather the opposite). Georgia will improve as the season progresses even though the record may not show it (SEC East is BRUTAL). However, losing to Wofford doesn’t look so bad now – beat South Carolina tonight.

I have no idea what compelled you to determine that Felton was a good floor coach. Felton was a good disciplinarian and defensive coach – otherwise, he was a hard ass looking for a reason to recruit a project. If you remain a card carrying member of the Wildcat Nation, you’d be well served to make sure someone is minding the store in Lexington. Calipari makes Harrick look like an altar boy.

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman!

December 19th, 2009
10:49 pm

This BB program is just like the football program. They couldn’t close the deal and had to hang on to eek out a win. A nine point lead squandered in the waning moments. BTW speaking of “cant close the deal” any word of a hiring of a defensive coach yet ?

GWJ

December 19th, 2009
10:50 pm

I think Coach Fox can deliver for UGA…..give him a few years.

Scott

December 19th, 2009
10:51 pm

Day late and a dollar short Mark, told you to write about this game Fri but you punted. It was a great time, and if the AJC would help support ALL local teams maybe an article Friday would have put more GA fans in seats. There were still alot of them, and a lot of carpetbaggers too, but ATL is filled with Cthose types of folks. Great time, and a great win, Go Dawgs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LAME HOOPS

December 19th, 2009
10:55 pm

Any ACC team beats the snot out of either of these teams.

DirtyDawg

December 19th, 2009
11:02 pm

For a while this afternoon I was planning to go to that game. I called the number listed for the box-office…a recording referred me to the Ticketmaster number that was no longer in service…when I went to Ticketmaster online, it told me they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, sell any tickets for this. As it turned out I ended up babysitting the grand-kids, but if I had scored tickets on my earlier attempt, I’d been there with red on.

Hang in there guys, with continued efforts like this you’ll be seein’ more ‘fans’ wherever you play.

James Naismith

December 19th, 2009
11:05 pm

Who are these morons who think it’s anything but moronic to be first. Get a life. As far as the Dawgs in basketball, this is indeed promising.

Gravy Train

December 19th, 2009
11:11 pm

Great win for Coach Fox and the boys. I was thinking a sweep of Tech would be awesome, seems like it could happen now.

Hey Lame, Clemson lost to the Illini already. UNC got used by Texas today. What else ya got? ACC = All Crap Conference

llf

December 19th, 2009
11:11 pm

LAME BRAIN, you mean any ACC team like Clemson?

Dawg stuck in Bham

December 19th, 2009
11:12 pm

Oh what the heck….
30-24!!!!!

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman!

December 19th, 2009
11:13 pm

Send that demolition crew from Dooley’s house on over to the Stegosaurus. Too many vaccant seats in that old building for rodeo events anyway.

Scott

December 19th, 2009
11:15 pm

Hey Lame Hoops, your psot is just that Lame!
Illi already BEAT Clemson, HAHAHAH! And Jan 5th GT will lose in Athens.AGAIN!

Ginger

December 19th, 2009
11:15 pm

Yeah Dogs and Mark Fox…Here’s hoping that a hard playing team will win some fans over and help fill up the stands….In order for UGA B-Ball to improve, a key component will be fan support…If the fans around the state can get excited and we can say just play .500 ball–think that will help with recruiting…got the hotbed of Atlanta to bring back in the the recruiting fold. And come on Coach Fox..let’s coach these guys up…You did a good job tonight. And good job Mark for a great column.

Doug

December 19th, 2009
11:20 pm

The Wofford loss doesn’t look quite as bad since they beat South Carolina tonight…

Al Gore

December 19th, 2009
11:20 pm

I invented Global Warming

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman!

December 19th, 2009
11:23 pm

“He landed only one middling prospect in the early signing period, and he’s going to have overcome a ton of skepticism toward Georgia basketball in his own new state. (Like the sight of playing a game in Duluth, Ga., and having your fans outnumbered.)”
Note Keyword is middling… just like the football program which cant hire assistant coaches.

4 tickets 4 hotdogs 4 cokes

December 19th, 2009
11:24 pm

NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!!

Only when the weather is great.

December 19th, 2009
11:26 pm

What an awesome basketball game and I am ashamed of the Georgia faithful for not showing up. The game was in Gwinnett County. There were literally 200 Georgia fans there. Just like football this season, Sanford Stadium only 80 percent filled. I love the Dawgs but our fanbase is lame.

Big time?? Not

December 19th, 2009
11:38 pm

Will take some time but good coach and good fundamentals. It’s coming

Oh yea

Four tickets, four hot dogs, four cokes

DawgVoiceofReason

December 19th, 2009
11:41 pm

Only,

Not disagreeing that we should have had better turnout for the basketball game, but if you think our football fanbase is lame, you don’t know much about Georgia football. There was no homegame this year, or any time in recent memory only 80 percent full.

jc_dwags

December 19th, 2009
11:42 pm

These new Fox Dawgs are a gritty bunch. They will come out and play you for 40 solid minutes. I think 14 or 15 wins is possible. This team wont quit.

haywood...

December 19th, 2009
11:43 pm

any fanbase is lame if the team is lame. build up the victories and
the crowd will build up.

hey MARK, did u see dunlap is back for the sugar? disgraceful.

surely u remember i predicted that a few nites ago.

urban is so predictable.

a backlash by the media and fans would be nice.

i don’t expect meyer to add to it as he did to spikes
after the fall-out,

but at least folks could express their displeasure in
the form of freedom of speech.

whadaya think? does it warrant a column?

thanks for the time.
H.J.

GT IS STILL A 4TH RATE HIGH SCHOOL TEAM

December 19th, 2009
11:47 pm

YELLOW TICKS SHOULD USE THE WATERLESS URINALS OF CALLAWAY GARDEN AND THEY WILL FIND OUT THEIR PROPER PLACE IN THE ORDER OF LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE— AT THE END OF THEIR STREAM—THERE IS A YELLOW JACKET AT THE END OF THE STREAM—HAHHAHAHAHHHHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA FOREVER AND EVER.

Hoops Dawg

December 19th, 2009
11:48 pm

FELTON A GOOD FLOOR COACH???? You got to be kidding, Mark. As season ticket holder the past 33 years, I have seen two floor coaches of merit at UGA: Tubby Smith (very good) and Jim Harrik (excellant). The others were a bunch of clowns whose player rotations and in-game strategies were perplexing. Fox did a great job on the sidelines tonite and it looks like the kids are starting to buy in to his system. He needs a 4-star recruit or two–that and with the two transfers sitting out this year, we have the makings of a very respectable team.

Scott

December 19th, 2009
11:58 pm

your right Hoops Dawg, Bradley has probably seen a handlful of games in person over the last several years, how the heck would he know Felton was good floor coach, poor column for sure.

Pago Flyer

December 20th, 2009
12:08 am

Pretty sad when a Big Ten has more folks/colors than the home team! Sad..

FartsALotDawg

December 20th, 2009
12:10 am

I thought I was at a Thrashers game.

Michael Dawgs for life

December 20th, 2009
12:10 am

i don’t know how well georgia is going to keep on doing, the SEC is having a good year with kentucky, tennessee and missippi state all doing well

Monty

December 20th, 2009
12:32 am

Not sure what Georgia Basketball team Mr. Bradley has been watching this year. They have 4 losses and three of those losses came against teams with 1 only 1 loss each at this point in the season. None of those 3 games were blowouts. Last year those games wouldn’t have been close as the group led by Felton would have rolled over and died. Fox has something special going on. This is not the most talented group of basketball players but Fox has them playing as a team and playing for 40 minutes. I kept waiting for them to collapse tonight only to lose by 10+ but it never happened. What a great game. Trey is great but Leslie is an athletic freak. If McPhee and somebody else can start hitting some jumpers with consistency this team will surprise a lot more teams. They should win the next couple of games and will probably win the next 3 before facing GT.

Go Dawgs!

nobody

December 20th, 2009
12:32 am

LET’S MAKE SOMETHING CLEAR TO EVERYONE MR, BRADLEY…YOU ARE A KENTUCKY FAN FIRST AND LAST….GO BACK TO LEXINGTON….OUR DAWGS ARE BETTER AND PLAYING WITH CONFIDENCE…NEITHER THEY NOR ANY TRUE DAWG FAN NEEDS YOUR BELITTLING, SMIRKING,PATRONIZING, AND LOOK-DOWN-YOUR-NOSE “GLIMMER OF LIGHT” PATS-ON-THE-BACK….GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM….

freshd

December 20th, 2009
12:35 am

How good is the SEC. Wofford geat UGA and South Carolina Sat.

Floor General

December 20th, 2009
12:48 am

Louis Williams, Dwight Howard, Al-Fariq Aminu, Jodie Meeks, Sherraud Curry, JJ Hickson, Daniel Emerson, Jordan Demercy, Morris Almond, Chris Allen, Robert Dozier, Avery Jukes, Tanner Smith….I could on and on. If Mark Fox can just keep players in Georgia, they will be in the Final 4 every year

Mark "Crimson Crier" Ingram

December 20th, 2009
1:08 am

Even a blind dog finds a bone every once in a while! Wait till you come to Alabama.

Mike

December 20th, 2009
1:28 am

To be a “Big Blue” a$$ kisser, you have really displayed a strange grasp of roundball
by labeling Felton ( aka I.M Arrogant) a good floor coach. Did you do a couple of lines
of Draino before you stopped by the office today?? Felton would in all probability get
outcoached by the staff at Wheeler. He did have nice suits, however, befitting a person
of his own self-estimation.
Give Fox a chance, please – he’s doing a very good job with average talent at best.
Are you trying to turn into a cynical white-boy version of Terrence Moore or was it Clarence Bore ??

savannahdawg

December 20th, 2009
1:32 am

Just remember: you can’t spell Slut without UT…go Fox Dawgs!

Fundamentally Sound - It's great to be....

December 20th, 2009
4:15 am

Anyone that has any clue about basketball could appreciate what he or she sees in this team. They are young and talented. They don’t have NBA talent yet but are definitely on the right track. They work hard. They have each seem to have clear jobs on the court and are playing within themselves. For the first time in a long time, they’re playing team ball under the direction of an egoless floor general. They will certainly get there. If they lose, it won’t be because of lack of execution but youth or talent.

Moving Dog

December 20th, 2009
5:02 am

Great Article Mark!I really enjoyed reading it. For the first time in a long time I watched a Georgia basketball team that made me want to go to a game and support them.

aggie.

December 20th, 2009
6:30 am

i didnt know Ga had a basketball team. sounds like they are better than the football team

Coach D

December 20th, 2009
6:33 am

Floor General:
Louis Williams, Dwight Howard, Al-Fariq Aminu, Jodie Meeks, Sherraud Curry, JJ Hickson, Daniel Emerson, Jordan Demercy, Morris Almond, Chris Allen, Robert Dozier, Avery Jukes, Tanner Smith….I could on and on. If Mark Fox can just keep players in Georgia, they will be in the Final 4 every year…

Add Toney Douglas. If they can keep 1/4 of these players they’d be darn good.
Fox knows what he’s doing. Am just wondering how long he’ll be at UGA once he starts winning consistently in a few years.

Sunday 20Dec Links « Leather Helmet Blog

December 20th, 2009
6:35 am

[...] Bradley on UGA Hoops [...]

Lane

December 20th, 2009
6:49 am

Fox is the real deal. Triangle offense, has the players energized. Fox coaches players “up”, will take 3/5 years. Hope he does not become frustrated and leave.