SEC: Surging Georgia looks to extend winning streak

BY CHARLES ODUM AP SPORTS WRITER ATHENS, Ga. (AP) – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and his Georgia teammates were elementary school students the last time the Bulldogs won five straight Southeastern Conference games. The unlikely winning streak has given Georgia its first winning record since a season-opening win over Jacksonville in early November. Suddenly there is new life for a season that only a month ago seemed past the point of salvaging.
The Bulldogs, a still-modest 12-11 overall, are 6-4 in the SEC entering Tuesday night's home game against Alabama. Coach Mark Fox said Monday he has seen a long-awaited rise in the confidence of his players with the program's longest SEC winning streak since 2001. Fox said self-belief was in short supply after the opening win over Jacksonville was followed by deflating home losses to Youngstown State and Southern Miss. "Our team had a slow start to the year and never really became confident," Fox said "We've just been fighting uphill most of the season." The one constant has been Caldwell-Pope, a sophomore who is the SEC's only player to score in double figures in every game this season. Caldwell-Pope is second in the league with his average of 17.5 points per game, and he has had at least a share of Georgia's scoring lead in 20 of 23 games. Proof that Georgia can win without the typical scoring leadership from Caldwell-Pope came Saturday, when he was held without a field goal for the first time in his career. He had only 10 points, all on free throws, in Georgia's 52-46 win over Texas A&M. "Every player on the team is contributing to scoring," Caldwell-Pope said. Nemanja Djurisic led Georgia with 13 points off the bench. The game against Alabama (15-8, 7-3 SEC) could reveal more about Georgia's progress. The five straight wins have come against teams with losing conference records, including two wins over Texas A&M. The Bulldogs also beat Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee in the streak. Now the schedule becomes more difficult. After facing Alabama, the Bulldogs play three of their next four games on the road, including back-to-back games at Mississippi and Arkansas, which each have only one home loss. Georgia was just trying to stay out of last place in the league before its winning streak, so it won't apologize for any wins. The most impressive point of the streak is that three of the five straight wins came on the road. Georgia will need better offensive production to extend the streak. The Bulldogs beat the Aggies Saturday despite shooting only 32.4 percent with a season-low 12 field goals on 36 attempts. Caldwell-Pope is the team's only player with a scoring average in double figures. Georgia is leaning heavily on three freshmen. Forward Brandon Morris has moving into the starting lineup. Freshman guards Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines have seen their scoring increase in the SEC schedule. "I still don't think we're playing our best basketball," Fox said. "I think there's a lot of room for us still to improve. I think we have been pretty good for the most part defensively." The Bulldogs were only 7-11 overall and 1-4 in the league before the turnaround. Since then, point guard Vincent Williams said he can see the rise in his teammates' confidence. "We're starting to really see how good we can be," Williams said. "Everybody is starting to buy into the system." © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


More Sports

NBA

Hawks still have doubters

ATLANTA (AP) — They won 60 games, which is the accepted NBA standard of greatness. They blew away everyone else in the Eastern Confere ... Read More


High School Track & Field

Heritage School, Trinity gear up for region meet

Heavy rains factored in Trinity Christian’s Senior Night Finale meet, but both host squads, as well as teams from The Heritage School ... Read More


CCMSAL Track & Field

Tight competition expected for championships

As the Coweta County Middle School Athletic League’s annual track and field championships begin Thursday with field events, there&rsqu ... Read More


Wet weather continues to cause headaches

Rain, rain go away

One of the biggest challenges this week for local high school teams hasn’t been beating opponents, but finding a way to finish games b ... Read More


High School Lacrosse

Cougars unable to hold off Kennesaw Mountain

Newnan’s boys lacrosse team stayed close on Thursday against Kennesaw Mountain before falling to the the Mustangs 14-2. After the two ... Read More

College Football

Cronic hands over coaching reins to son at Reinhardt

Once upon a time, Danny Cronic handed over the starting quarterback job at East Coweta High to son Drew with as much faith as any head coach ... Read More