After Tuesday's 15-point home loss to Florida, Georgia coach Jim Harrick spent the next few days wondering whether his team could recover in time for today's crucial game against No. 10 Kentucky.
The Bulldogs' confidence appeared in tatters after the defeat, their fourth in six games, and the promise that accompanied their unlikely rise to the top of the Southeastern Conference was nowhere to be found.
Turning things around got more difficult for Harrick on Friday, when the SEC suspended sophomore forward Chris Daniels for the first half of today's 1 p.m. game.
Citing "unsportsmanlike conduct" in the first half of Georgia's loss to Auburn on Feb. 9, SEC commissioner Roy Kramer imposed the suspension after reviewing tapes of the Tigers' 75-72 upset win.
Bulldogs center Steve Thomas sat out a one-game suspension against Florida for fighting in the second half of the Auburn game. A release by the SEC said Daniels' suspension "was the result of a flagrant, unsportsmanlike act."
Daniels elbowed Auburn center Abdou Diame in the first half, but the act didn't draw a personal foul. Harrick hinted that Kentucky might have been responsible for bringing the incident to Kramer's attention.
"It bothers me a lot that our team was punished two games in a row," Harrick said. "I know who it was. ... Let me say this: It was not Auburn."
The 6-foot-7 Daniels has started all 25 games for the No. 21 Bulldogs (18-7, 7-5 SEC) this season, averaging 12.1 points and a team-leading 8.2 rebounds per game.
"I hate that it happened," Daniels said. "I feel like I let my teammates down, but we've got to press forward and we can't let it stop us."
Friday's news was just the latest dose of adversity that has confronted Harrick and the Bulldogs this season.
Antownne Williams, the older brother of junior guard Ezra Williams, was shot to death last week. Ezra Williams played against Florida, then Harrick accompanied him to his brother's funeral Thursday in Marietta, Ga.
The team endured a rape investigation in January that centered on Thomas and junior guard Tony Cole, who hasn't played in the past nine games.
On the court, the Bulldogs bear a faint resemblance to the team that won 14 of its first 16 games and pulled off upsets at Florida and Kentucky. Georgia is in third place in the SEC East, a half-game behind the Wildcats, after spending much of January atop the division.
"We're not a shadow of the team that we were earlier in the year," said Harrick, who is trying to guide the Bulldogs to their first regular-season sweep of Kentucky since 1986-87. "I don't know how we'll be mentally."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.
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