Felton's Dawgs tip off in the Islands

ATHENS - Georgia's men's basketball team opens its season today in paradise.

The Bulldogs will play Old Dominion at 6 p.m. ET in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Last season, a trip to the tropics was the only thing that would have prettied up a team that went 8-20 and won two conference games.

This year, the Bulldogs hope they're not hard to look at no matter the setting, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. They could hardly be worse than a year ago, when they were last in the SEC in scoring (60.1 ppg), scoring margin (minus-7.7), field percentage (46.8 percent) and 3-point percentage (29.9 percent).

"Well, we have more raw talent, so that will help us," Coach Dennis Felton said.

Old Dominion, which finished 28-6 last year, is the preseason favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association. The Monarchs are led by All-America candidate Alex Loughton, a 6-foot-9 senior post player from Australia.

"They're a Top 25 caliber team," Felton said. "People in their league think they're a top 10 caliber team. It's about as tough an opening game as we could have."

The Bulldogs also will play Fordham and either Wisconsin, Eastern Kentucky or Norfolk State while they're on the island of St. Thomas.

"If we get some victories early, that'll be a big confidence booster," guard Channing Toney said.

Toney expects himself and fellow guards Sundiata Gaines and Levi Stukes, the team's three leading scorers from a year ago, to be vastly improved on the offensive end with a year more experience in Felton's system under their belts.

"I don't think (scoring) is going to be an issue this year," Gaines said.

Four of Georgia's newcomers in particular have shown some offensive abilities in their careers. Guards Billy Humphrey (30.4), Mike Mercer (19.8) and Terrance Woodbury (17.3) and forward Kendrick Johnson (20.1) all averaged more than 17 points per game in high school.

"We have a lot more options," Toney said.

Guards should dominate the scoring for Georgia this year, Gaines said.

"I'd say 60 to 70 percent of it," he said.

The Bulldogs should get more points simply because they'll be deeper and playing a more up-tempo style, but that's not a given, Felton said.

"Right now, it's a challenge to get our guys to play fast," he said. "We're a long way from sprinting to offense with the intensity and consistency I want to. You have to have the discipline to run every time even though you're only going to get an opportunity a few times."

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