It could hardly go worse. The Bulldogs are 1-7 in the league and 7-11 overall entering today’s 4 p.m. game against South Carolina in Stegeman Coliseum.
“Obviously we get frustrated at times because we’re not having the kind of success we’d like to have, but everybody is trying to stay positive,” freshman center Dave Bliss said. “If you get too emotional about it, it’s just going to get worse for everybody.”
The Gamecocks (12-7, 4-4) are the first duplicate opponent the Bulldogs have faced this season. They beat Georgia 74-54 on Jan. 8.
The Bulldogs’ hopes for revenge may depend on the health of sophomore guard Levi Stukes. The team’s leading scorer is again limping on a sprained right ankle, which he reinjured while running into 310-pound LSU forward Glen Davis on Wednesday. Stukes and Davis collided on a screen, he said.
“I went to hit him, and he didn’t move,” Stukes said. “Then, he hit me and I went back and rolled my ankle real bad.”
Stukes said he is hopeful he will play today. The sophomore is averaging 15.7 points per game this year but still is struggling to take on the leadership role that is vital on such a young team. The Bulldogs’ only SEC win came in a game he missed due to injury, and he was suspended from the Florida game after skipping an early morning rehab treatment.
Stukes and Felton have talked about that subject in the last week, Stukes said.
“He just wants me to push myself a little more in my leadership,” Stukes said.
The Bulldogs, who don’t have an upperclassman in the starting lineup and get more than 60 percent of their playing time from freshmen, are starved for leadership.
“We certainly show signs of immaturity and the insecurity that comes with immaturity quite often, and that is just natural,” Coach Dennis Felton said. “The fact is we are immature. We don’t have any real veteran leadership, and it’s going to be a struggle as they find their way. But their effort is to be admired.”
Without veterans or a natural leader emerging, it’s up to all Georgia’s players to take on the responsibility, Bliss said.
“We can be leaders as much as anyone,” he said. “The other guys don’t have much more experience than we do.”
SOUTH CAROLINA at GEORGIA
Time/place: Today, 4 p.m., Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
Record/rankings: Georgia 7-11 (1-7 SEC), South Carolina 12-7 (4-4 SEC)
About Georgia: Freshman guard Sundiata Gaines entered conference play as one of the Bulldogs’ most productive players, but his production has slipped recently. In the last two games, he has combined for eight points, one assist and four turnovers. Against LSU on Wednesday, he played a career-low 18 minutes. … Georgia is last in the SEC in assists (10.3 per game). … After giving up a season-worst 95 points to LSU on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs had a 6 a.m. practice on Thursday. … Walk-on Tommy Wainscott suffered a minor concussion in practice and didn’t play against LSU.
About South Carolina: The Gamecocks are 0-6 on the road this season. “Going into Georgia, I think what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to settle on a style of play that’s going to be conducive to us winning basketball games not on a singular basis but over the course of the season,” Coach Dave Odom said. … Carlos Powell leads South Carolina in scoring (15.2 points per game), rebounding (6.5 per game) and steals (24 overall). “Carlos Powell is playing the best basketball of his career right now,” Georgia coach Dennis Felton said.
Scouting report: The Gamecocks are the type of team that presents Georgia with particular problems because they have lots of what the Bulldogs don’t, namely tall, athletic players. South Carolina gets big minutes from the 6-foot-7 Powell, 6-7 Tarence Kinsey, 6-8 Renaldo Balkman and 6-9 Wallace Brandon. That’s an impossible matchup for the Bulldogs. “They do a lot of pressing and trapping and things to speed up the game to take advantage of their athleticism and their length,” Felton said. “That’s what presents the biggest challenge to us coming into the game, being able to handle the ball and score in transition. And, of course, rebounding continues to be a big concern for us against anybody.” The Bulldogs are next-to-last in the SEC in rebounding margin (minus-4.5).
Next: Georgia at Arkansas, Wednesday, 8 p.m.; South Carolina vs. Auburn, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.