Georgia Beats Mercer: Three Takeaways

ATHENS - Dean Legge's three takeaways from Georgia's 58-49 win over the Mercer Bears.

1. Breath of fresh air – That noise you heard as soon as you opened the doors at Stegeman Coliseum is the future… and in so many ways. Georgia, in a stroke of genius, invited what had to have been thousands of local school children to watch the Bulldogs take on Mercer.

In light of last's week's events in Newtown, looking at the young faces in the crowd was a refreshing break from the empty seats that have plagued this program. The kids, predictably, were full of passion, energy and noise the entire time they were in the building.

There was a different feel to this game in the stands, and the kids were the reason why. The move, by Georgia, to invite the students in was smart, and it should be repeated more often.

Just because children are from Athens doesn't necessarily mean they will be Georgia fans. In the crowd you saw a lot of children of color… I've been to hundreds of Georgia sporting events, and many of those children in the community simply are not in the crowds.

In addition, you never know which child in the crowd today will have this experience either spark or cement their tie to Georgia. I'm glad to see the Athletic Association not taking the Athens crowd for granted. This was a smart move for the future of fandom at Georgia. Also, it was certainly a much-appreciated break for these local teachers who, like the rest of us, have been thinking about Newtown.

One last thing: I could not possibly imagine being a teacher. Kudos to those public servants and what they do – for today's effort you should be given some combination of aspirin and gold.

2. Still struggling to score – As most have likely already discovered, this Georgia team is going to struggle to score in the SEC, and that's a bad, bad thing.

There continues to be too much hesitation; the big men are not a scoring threat; and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope simply cannot do everything by himself. This is the time of the year where offense should be getting better – and in the loss to Iona Georgia did score 70 points. Still, this team is just plain limited in what it can do on the offensive side of the floor.

A power conference team should not struggle to score points. One shouldn't criticize very, very good shooting (Georgia filled it up from outside the three-point arc), but you have to wonder if Georgia really can depend on hitting threes the rest of the season in order to win.

The problem is they might have to. Georgia's post play is offering near nothing, or is, at best, inconsistent in scoring the ball. Georgia can't seem to drive the ball, and struggles mightily at getting fouled – they'd visited the free throw line only 173 times this year coming into the game with the Bears… for a team struggling to score that's not enough. Georgia got 16 free throws today... that's a much better sign.

3. Any win, at this point, is a good win – Having played sports in college I don't ever think there is such a thing as a "bad" loss – to me it doesn't exist. That's the point of keeping score… to win.

So Georgia gets credit for that.

The product on the floor is in need of improvement, and fast. Georgia is looking at a 20-loss season without a turnaround. The only way to turn things around (cliché) is to fight one possession at a time. This program cannot throw a way a single possession for the rest of the year. It is simply not good enough to do that.

Winning is the ultimate goal, but while watching one should see if players are fighting each possession. Are they hedging on screens? Are they sprinting, not running, back in transition? Are they winning the rebound battle? Are they providing adequate spacing on the offensive side of the ball? Are they taking the correct shot at the adequate time in the offensive set? Are they making the first easy, open pass?

These are the standards the program should be gauged by.

"Our kids have had a tough start to the year, and today was growth," Fox said after the game. "We needed to win."

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