Originally created 01/06/01

Georgia to play Kentucky in SEC opener



LEXINGTON, Ky. - Georgia coach Jim Harrick thought he was doing his young team a favor when he put together a non-conference schedule that would challenge even the nation's best programs.

Now, as the Bulldogs (7-6) enter Southeastern Conference play tonight at Kentucky, Harrick believes he may have been out of his mind.

"It was probably stupidity," Harrick said with a chuckle when asked what possessed him to schedule early season games with the likes of Wake Forest, Stanford, Utah, Georgia Tech, Villanova, California, Fresno State and Minnesota. "It was probably three or four games too much.

"It's nice to go around and say, `Well, we had the toughest schedule in America.' But I'd rather have two or three more wins."

If anyone knows exactly how Harrick is feeling, it's Kentucky coach Tubby Smith.

His Wildcats (6-5) already have faced St. John's, UCLA, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Indiana and archrival Louisville, and their five losses have come by a total of 14 points. Despite their early struggles, they have won three straight games for the first time this season heading into their matchup with the Bulldogs at Rupp Arena.

On Friday, Smith was asked to give his team a letter grade for the non-conference portion of its schedule.

"When you look at what we've been able to do, 6-5, it isn't very good," he said. "We've blown some opportunities to win games, but we've improved a lot.

"Based on the last few games, I'd give us a `C.' But I would say that, overall, we're hovering right above passing."

Kentucky forward Keith Bogans, the team's leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, said he'd give the Wildcats higher marks, especially during their three-game winning streak.

"We didn't play so well early in the season, but we've improved each game and put together a little run," he said. "I'd probably give us a `B.' For sure, no lower than a `C.' "

Harrick certainly doesn't see Kentucky as average. He knows that the Wildcats, like his own team, have struggled to find chemistry and an identity against some tough competition.

"This is going to be a difficult assignment for us," Harrick said. "They're getting good guard play, and they're big and strong inside. But their wings, Bogans and (Tayshaun) Prince, are their key guys. So go Bogans and Prince, really, so goes Kentucky

"You can say they struggle shooting, and sometimes they do. But they seem to get by with it. And they've probably only played one bad game this season. Let's face it: Kentucky is Kentucky. Who are we kidding?"

Georgia has its own pair of talented swingmen. Forwards Anthony Evans and Shon Coleman both are averaging more than 10 points and six rebounds per game.

Evans, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound senior, is coming off his best game of the season - a 21-point, 14-rebound effort in a 91-80 victory over Villanova. Coleman, a 6-6, 215-pound senior, added 12 points and 10 rebounds against Villanova, and has scored in double figures in nine of the Bulldogs' 13 games.

Junior guard D.A. Layne leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game, including a 28-point performance against Georgia Tech and 27-point nights against Minnesota and Villanova.

"Evans is a very aggressive, very physical player who's shooting about 55 percent from the field," Smith said. "And D.A. Layne has picked up where he left off last year as one of the best shooters in the country, not just the SEC.

"They're a very good rebounding team. They're not that tall inside, but they're very wide and they're very strong. They're always looking to score and go to the boards, and that could create a problem for us."