Dawgs ready for critical game vs. Cats

Dennis Felton

ATHENS – For the first five minutes of Wednesday night's game against South Carolina, Georgia head coach Dennis Felton pounded his foot and said the same two things again and again.

"Too soft" and "too easy", Felton screamed at his players. He was not disappointed because the Bulldogs were giving up easy scores. It was nothing that dramatic at all.

Felton was angry because his players were allowing the Gamecocks to catch passes at the top of the key with ease. Those passes, made more than a hundred times a game, don't seem like they're worth losing your voice over, but that's Georgia's style, South Carolina head coach Dave Odom said.

"Nobody plays defense like they play it in our league," Odom said. "This team here they really play great man-to-man defense, as good as there is in our league for sure. This is a different style of defense."

The difference, Odom said, is aggression.

"They're the most physical team in our league," Odom said. "They make body contact. You catch the ball, and they've got a guy out there on you. You don't have time to catch and shoot. You won't see many people just come off screens and shoot the ball without making another move because they are quick to the catch."

The Bulldogs' mundane record, 11-7 overall and 2-3 in the SEC, and two-game losing streak are not the fault of their defense. Heading into today's 1 p.m. game against Kentucky, which will be televised by CBS, Georgia is fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 65.5 points per game.

In SEC games, the Bulldogs are second in points allowed, giving up an average of 66.

"Some teams control the game offensively. They control the game defensively," Odom said. "I think that's one of the hardest things to do, but (Felton) has gotten that done."

"Control" may be a strong word considering the way Georgia's season has gone, but today's game, at least, probably will be controlled on that end of the floor. The Wildcats (9-9, 3-2) are fifth in the SEC in scoring defense and ninth in scoring offense.

"Coach (Felton) has (the Bulldogs) playing exactly the way they need to have a chance to win every time," first-year Wildcats head coach Billy Gillispie said. "They are tough. They're very defensive-minded."

The Bulldogs are 11th in the SEC in scoring offense, averaging 69.5 points per game, which strips Felton of a lot of the good feeling he might have about his team's defense.

"We want to be in control of all aspects of the game, offense and defense and everything in between," he said. "All parts of the game are really important to us. We start with emphasizing defense because to win consistently and win big games and win championships, you have to be really good defensively. That is pretty much true at all levels."

Defense also builds team unity, Felton said, because it emphasizes teamwork and selflessness.

"We take pride in wanting to be very, very tough defensively, night in and night out and year in and year out," he said, "but we don't do it in neglect of every other part of the game."

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