Mark Fox proves that if you win they will come
by Ryan Scates
When UGA unveiled the new plans for renovating historic Stegeman Coliseum in 2008, it created plenty of buzz around campus. The soaring glass panels, larger than life graphics, expanded concessions and multi-million dollar price tag had everyone excited to check out what had become one of the more antiquated venues in SEC Sports.
But even the excitement surrounding an eight-figure renovation has fallen to the wayside this season as Mark Fox and the Men’s Basketball team sits at 14-4, riding a wave of momentum heading into a crucial SEC stretch.
Coming into the season, Georgia’s biggest hurdle to earning an NCAA bid was clear: the team had to learn to win on the road in the SEC. While the Dawgs’ dropped a tough game to Vanderbilt in Nashville 66-73 that cost them their #24 ranking, Georgia rebounded later that week in Oxford. Against Ole Miss, all five Georgia starters scored in the double digits for their first time in eight seasons en route to a 98-76 win. 98 points was the most points scored by a Georgia team since 1995, and the 22 point margin of victory was Georgia’s largest since 2007.
The Hoop Dawgs have put on a scoring clinic in 2011, scoring 80 or more points on six different occasions this season. Coach Fox explained after the Mississippi State game, “I think we are a pretty efficient offensive team. I think everyone on our starting five has had at least 20 points or more at some point this season. One of the things that was important to us is to have balance. [Trey] Thompkins and [Jeremy] Price needed to make some shots to start league play because they have been so surrounded…January has opened up some three point shooting and fortunately for us, those kids have made some.”
Thanks to some suspect officiating in the closing moments of the Tennessee game, the Hoop Dawgs claim a 3-2 conference record. The Dawgs are one-half game behind division leader Florida heading into a two week stretch where Georgia hosts Florida on Tuesday, January 25th before heading on the road for contests with Kentucky and Arkansas on January 29th and February 5th, respectively. The basketball team returns to Athens to host Auburn and Xavier the week of February 5th. Florida is the preseason media favorite to win the 2010-2011 SEC Title.
While Georgia is still very much in the thick of the SEC race, taking a loss to division-rival Tennessee at home carried a sting that will not soon be forgotten in Athens. According to UGA, Tennessee now leads the all-time series between the SEC rivals by a 91-52 count, but Georgia still holds a 34-33 edge at home. The Dawgs bounced back from the Tennessee loss with an 86-64 trouncing of Mississippi State where Georgia never trailed.
Walking out of the arena on Saturday after the win over Miss. State, I couldn’t help but laugh overhearing some undergrads recapping the game. “Did they paint the halls in here or something?” one student asked.
I can’t remember,” replied another, “but did you see that guy with the Mark Fox-head poster?!”
While the renovated Stegeman Coliseum is a feature in and of itself, Mark Fox is showing that the most effective way to create a buzz in Athens can be summed up in one word: Win.