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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Richt, Woodbury Spark Bulldogs

You can read my game story from Georgia's Valentine's Day treat at It's got some excellent quotes from players and coach Pete Herrmann, but here's a handful of other interesting notes from the game...

-- It was just the spark Georgia's basketball team needed, senior Corey Butler said.

Mired in an 11-game losing streak, there wasn't much for the Bulldogs to feel good about, and the locker room hadn't exactly been filled with energy lately. But Friday, the Bulldogs got a visit from someone who could empathize with their situation – football coach Mark Richt.

Butler said Richt talked to the team about his 2006 season in which his team dropped four of five games at one point, but rallied to win its final three contests, all against ranked opponents.

"He told us that there are times when it gets rough, but the only people that believe in you are the people in the locker room, your teammates," Butler said. "And sure enough, we came out there with a fire, and it was tremendous, man."

Georgia entered the game winless in SEC play, but knocked off division-leading Florida 88-86 Saturday to earn its first win since Dec. 31, and Richt's words of wisdom played a big role, point guard Dustin Ware said. So once the team hit the court, the Bulldogs felt they'd owed it to Richt to put on a good show.

"He said he was going to TiVo the game and watch it," Ware said. "So in many ways, we dedicated this one to him."

So does this mean some of the Bulldogs hoopsters will return the favor with an inspirational pregame speech before Georgia's next gridiron showdown against the Gators?
"If he allows us to, I guess," said senior Terrance Woodbury, "but I don't think that's going to be in our plans."

-- Ware and fellow freshman Trey Thompkins were still a few months shy of their second birthdays the last time Pete Herrmann won a game as a head coach. It was Feb. 8, 1992, and Herrmann coached his Navy team to an 89-57 win over Colgate. More than 17 years passed before he did it again, but Georgia's interim head coach said the win was all about his players.

"It's great for these kids," Herrmann said. "They're going to class every day and getting told they weren't amounting to much. … It's a terrific day for Georgia and the kids on this team."

While Herrmann was all smiles after the game, it was still hard to celebrate the win, he said. Herrmann only got the job as Georgia's temporary coach after his good friend Dennis Felton was fired two weeks ago, which makes every game he's on the sideline now a bit bittersweet.

"The whole sequence of events, it's not a happy time," Herrmann said. "The whole circumstances makes it hard."

Still, the long ride between victories was a statement of Herrmann's passion for his job.
After a practice last week, Herrmann addressed his team in the locker room and posed a question. He asked his players how many consecutive Tuesday afternoons in February they thought he had been doing the same thing he was doing that day.

"Forty-eight straight years," Herrmann said. "I've been in the gym since seventh grade on Tuesday at 3 o'clock in February. And you know what? It's where I'd rather be more than anywhere."

-- Senior Terrance Woodbury's 32 points marked a career high in scoring and was the best output by a Georgia player since Sundiata Gaines racked up 32 against Florida in a losing effort last season.

"I was just shooting when I was open," Woodbury said. "They just kept going in. It was just a good night for me. My teammates kept looking for me, and I was able to finish it for them."

Woodbury couldn't have played much better during the first half Saturday, hitting on all seven of his shots, including five 3-pointers, to rack up 20 points in the first 20 minutes.

"When Wood is on and hitting shots and being aggressive, he's one of the best players in the country, and he proved it (Saturday)," Ware said. "He led us to victory, not only on offense but on defense."

-- Woodbury led the way for Georgia on Saturday, and several others chipped in with key plays and hefty contributions, but forward Jeremy Price never saw the court.

Price, who had started 10 games and is averaging 6.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game this season, remained on the bench for the second time in the past three games.

Price's benching against South Carolina last week was a disciplinary move by Herrmann following an altercation between the sophomore and a teammate during practice, but Herrmann insisted the lack of playing time against Florida was strictly strategic.

"No issue, he's just got to play better," Herrmann said. "Chris (Barnes) is coming in and doing a good job. This rotation is playing pretty good."

For his part, Price, who has played just 8 minutes in the past three games, said he hoped to be back on the court soon, but still enjoyed the win from the sideline.

"There's no issue in particular," he said. "It just wasn't my time I guess. I'm still supporting my team from the bench."

-- Florida's Nick Calathes loves playing Georgia, but a change from the official scorer after Saturday's game ended kept him from building on a rather impressive streak against the Bulldogs.

When the game ended, Calathes was credited with 16 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds, which would have been his third straight triple-double against Georgia. As it turned out, however, one of his rebounds was actually supposed to go to Thompkins. Both players wear No. 33, and Calathes had mistakenly been credited with the board earlier in the game.

-- The 88 points Georgia scored against Florida marked its best output in a regular-season SEC game since beating Ole Miss 89-82 on Feb. 26, 2002. The Bulldogs last topped 88 at home for an SEC game when they beat LSU 89-63 on Jan. 5, 2002.

"We are capable of exploding as much as we did tonight, but guys have just got to make shots, myself included," Woodbury said. "There's no pressure on us as far as our offense. We've just got to go hard, and I just feel like the last couple games we didn't go as hard as we needed to."

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