ATHENS, Ga. - Levi Stukes had never been to Portland, nor heard of the Rose Garden.
That changed this week because the Bulldogs (7-1) play Oregon State (3-3) there at 5:30 p.m., today.
When the junior guard from Randallstown, Md., hits the court more than 2,600 miles from Georgia's campus, he will maintain one habit. Stukes will dedicate the game to his grandmother Rose.
Last year, Stukes scored 31 against the Beavers at Philips Arena in a 76-74 overtime victory, one of few highlights for the Bulldogs' eight-win season.
But this year, Stukes and the Bulldogs enter the game with a lot of optimism and the possibility of already matching the win total from a year ago. After taking the week off from games to study for finals, Stukes and several Bulldogs said they don't mind playing anywhere, as long as they keep improving the program.
"Our whole team is looking forward to playing as many games as we can right now before we get into SEC play and try to play our best basketball then," Stukes said.
In addition to fostering im-provement of a young team, coach Dennis Felton is looking to broaden the team's stature from coast to coast.
The Bulldogs opened the season in the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands and will visit No. 20 Nevada on Wednesday for a game that is another cog in Felton's plan.
Felton said he makes numerous phone calls throughout the year trying to set up good match-ups.
"In the process, you seem to hit upon some people who seem to make sense in terms of quality of opponent and being able to work out dates," he said. "We talked to a lot of people, and it ended up being Oregon State this time around. Nevada was just us trying to find quality opponents."
Felton has repeatedly talked about being an aggressive team on offense, defense and rebounding. He wants to be as aggressive when making the team's schedule.
"As you watch our program grow, you'll see our schedule become more ambitious," Felton said. "I could see us going any- where to play and playing anybody."
The Bulldogs garnered a vote in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, but some, including Felton, did not know until a news conference.
Freshman Billy Humphrey, who leads the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounding, has been a large factor in Georgia receiving the vote. He has earned Southeastern Conference Freshmen of the Week awards twice, despite coming off the bench in all but one game.
"All I can say is, 'It's a start,' "Humphrey said. "It means one person believes we are where we think we should be."