Originally created 01/18/98

Georgia, USC face off today



ATHENS, Ga. -- By definition, a basketball guard is "a player stationed in the backcourt."

But that doesn't do justice to the guards who will be on display in today's Georgia-South Carolina men's game (4 p.m., CBS). The Bulldogs' G.G. Smith and Ray Harrison and the Gamecocks' BJ McKie and Melvin Watson won't be just in the backcourt, they will be all over the court.

McKie, an All-SEC pick a year ago, leads the 14th-ranked Gamecocks (and ranks second in the SEC) in scoring at 17.4 points per game. Watson is second with 12.7 points, has a team-high 43 assists and likely will finish atop that category for a South Carolina career total.

"South Carolina's guards are very good at penetrating with the ball," Georgia coach Ron Jirsa said. "Those two are very good off the dribble. Our challenge is to get down and guard them."

The Bulldogs' guards aren't exactly slouches.

Harrison is averaging a Georgia-best 14.3 points, followed by Smith at 13.5. Smith is tops in assists with 66 and Harrison ranks second with 49. Another statistical category Smith and Harrison lead is minutes played, although the return of Adrian Jones from a stress fracture will give Jirsa the chance to rest his starting backcourt more.

"Georgia's guards are outstanding," South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler said. "They are excellent players and they always seem to play very well against us. It's a difficult matchup for any team in our league."

Georgia (8-7, 0-3) hasn't been on the court since last Saturday's 82-77 loss at Florida. The Bulldogs have lost four straight games overall, including the three to open league play.

South Carolina (10-3, 2-2) has split its SEC openers, beating Vandy and LSU at home and falling to Ole Miss and Kentucky on the road. Fogler says playing on the road in the SEC -- as his Gamecocks must do today -- is difficult.

"For the most part, we've played better of late. The problem is when you go on the road, playing better doesn't win for you. You have to play very well on the road, and that's something we need to do," he said.

"Georgia has started off slowly, but there's still a lot of games left to be played. They beat us two out of three last year with basically the same team back for the most part. It's a very good basketball team that hasn't played as well as Coach Jirsa would like, but Sunday is another game. Wait and judge all of the teams when the season is over, not after three or four games."