Dawgs fall to Western Kentucky

Dennis Felton

ATHENS -- Georgia basketball coach Dennis Felton almost missed his post-game radio show Tuesday night because he spent so much time talking to his team.

In his defense, there was a lot to go over. The Bulldogs dropped their season-opener 71-61 to Western Kentucky, Felton's former team, in front of an announced crowd of 6,217 in Stegeman Coliseum.

"I don't like to lose to anybody," Felton said. "It doesn't matter if it's Western Kentucky or somebody else. It doesn't feel any different from any other loss."

The Hilltoppers (2-0) returned two starters this year from a team that was 8-6 in the Sun Belt Conference last year.

The Bulldogs (0-1) never led. Three times in the second half, they either tied the score or pulled within one, but each time Western Kentucky scored on the next possession to maintain its cushion. Felton's long postgame talk focused on "just the fact that we're so weak in a lot of different areas that we have to capitalize on our practice time," said freshman center Dave Bliss.

"It's the first step of many in a process we're just starting," Bliss said. "Clearly, we've got a lot to work on to get to the level we want to be at."

Bliss had the best game of any Bulldog, with 10 points and nine rebounds. Freshman point guard Sundiata Gaines led Georgia in scoring with 17 points but had five turnovers and just one assist.

"He's doing exactly what we hoped for," Felton said. "If we could get all our players to play with the consistency Dave is playing with right now, we'll be a much better team."

On the flip side is sophomore Levi Stukes. The Bulldogs' only returning starter played just 12 minutes before fouling out.

"That doesn't help matters much at all," Felton said. "He didn't have a chance to get into the game at all."

He finished with five points, one turnover and no assists.

"A lot of calls didn't go my way tonight," he said. "On one play, I don't even know if I touched the guy."

Western Kentucky was led by senior guard Antonio Haynes, a native of Camilla, who scored 20 points and had five rebounds.

Meanwhile, Georgia started what could be a long period of coming together as a team. Twenty-four percent of the Bulldogs' minutes were played by walk-ons on Tuesday. At one point, freshman Channing Toney came to the scorer's table to substitute into the place of walk-on Tommy Wainscott.

Asked who he was coming in for, Toney said he didn't know his teammate's name, only that he was No. 30.

NOTES: Mike Walker, a graduate of Macon's Southwest High School who is a freshman forward for the Hilltoppers, did not make the trip because he is academically ineligible. ... Felton will miss the team's practice today in order to attend the funeral of his adopted father, who died last Tuesday. ... Freshman forward Corey Gibbs (knee) wasn't expected to be healthy enough to play until December, but he got in the game Tuesday night, playing eight minutes and grabbing three rebounds. ... Former Minnesota coach Clem Haskins attended Tuesday's game. Haskins played at Western Kentucky. ... Walk-on center Joey Waldrop didn't dress out due to a broken nose.

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