Georgia Bulldogs: Nemanja Djurisic

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Georgia hasn’t done much to slow Jadeveon Clowney's pass rush in its first two meetings with South Carolina and its star defensive end. So offensive coordinator Mike Bobo joked that the Bulldogs might have to get creative with how they attack him in their third meeting this fall.

“I think we’re going to do the old Burt Reynolds ‘Longest Yard’ and not block him and let [quarterback Aaron] Murray throw it at him,” Bobo cracked at Thursday’s UGA Day meeting in Augusta, referencing the infamous scene in the 1974 football movie where Reynolds’ quarterback character repeatedly pegs a vicious opponent, played by gridiron great Ray Nitschke, in the groin.

Aaron Murray
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJadeveon Clowney has harrassed Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in each of their first two meetings.
Getting serious, though, Bobo said the Bulldogs have focused their pass protection schemes on Clowney in various ways over the last two seasons and he still accounted for three sacks, four tackles for a loss and a fumble that led to a back-breaking touchdown late in the Gamecocks’ 2011 win in Athens.

At some point, it’s a given that one of the top defensive players in the nation is going to make a big play, Bobo said.

“We can’t throw the ball backwards when he’s about to sack us and we’ve got to hold onto the ball and not turn a bad play into catastrophe,” Bobo said. “That’s what’s got to happen when we play him because he’s going to get [his]. He’s a great player. ... We’ve just got to play hard and like I said, he’s going to make some plays and we’ll do some things to hopefully try to discourage him.”

The key is doing what they can to limit the damage -- and they’ll try to scheme toward that end again in September.

“I think our guys are eager to play that game. We were obviously embarrassed [last year] and got thoroughly whipped by that defense,” Bobo said of the Bulldogs’ 35-7 loss in Columbia last season. “So we’ll be ready for that game, I promise you.”

Bobo made his first-ever appearance Thursday on Georgia’s summertime circuit of alumni association tour stops, and he was joined by men’s basketball coach Mark Fox, athletic director Greg McGarity and Jere Morehead, who will succeed Michael Adams as university president this summer.

Among the other points Bobo and Fox made in interviews prior to the event:

• He called the third tailback spot behind Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall a “big concern for me,” as the Bulldogs’ depth at the position was not ideal during the spring. He expects that signees A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas will both play this fall.

“They’re going to have to play,” he said. “You say that and you never know, but we’re going to go in there with the idea of getting them ready to play and it might not be week one. It might be, ‘Hey we’re getting them ready to play’ and they’re playing on special teams and by week four, week five, that confidence they’ve gained on special teams has enabled them to play scrimmage downs.”

• Bobo said freshman receiver Tramel Terry is ahead of schedule in his return from a torn ACL suffered last December and should begin running routes this summer. He added that All-SEC offensive guard Chris Burnette -- who missed spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery -- “has really changed his body since being out” and looks to be in great shape for when the Bulldogs open preseason camp in August.

• Fox said assistant coach Kwanza Johnson remains on Georgia’s staff as of now. TCU has approached Johnson about an assistant coaching job and Fox said he should make a decision in the near future.

• Fox said Georgia will likely not know the dates of its 2013-14 SEC games until August.

• Bulldogs forward Nemanja Djurisic is going home to Montenegro for UGA’s May semester, but plans to rejoin his teammates on campus for the second summer session. Fox said he expects all of Georgia’s players to be on campus for at least part of the summer, which will provide them with valuable preparation time as they prepare for preseason practice in the fall.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Mark Fox wished SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope well Monday after the sophomore guard announced that he will skip his final two seasons of college to enter the NBA draft.

“I think he went back and forth some and he took his time,” Fox said. “He took his time, but it wasn’t easy. Even today, in thanking me today and he’s very appreciative of his experience that he’s had at Georgia. He really has enjoyed playing here and he’s got an opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream and he’s chosen to do that.”

ESPN’s Chad Ford ranks Caldwell-Pope as the No. 21 overall prospect and No. 6 shooting guard in the June draft and projects him as a mid-first-round selection. Fox said he believed Caldwell-Pope weighed the proper information before making his decision.

“He went as far as to investigate what life would be like if he’s a guy that’s drafted and is placed in the D-League,” Fox said. “He’s researched this thing very, very well, very deeply and I thought he handled it very well to be honest with you.”

But Caldwell-Pope’s departure likely lowers the ceiling for Fox’s club in 2013-14, much like when juniors Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie entered the 2011 draft and the Bulldogs slipped from 21-12 and a spot in the NCAA tournament to 15-17 the following season.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Half-court buzzer-beaters, last-second jump shots, ill-timed and questionable whistles -- all of those elements have contributed to a series of last-minute losses for Georgia in the last two months.

“We keep it interesting,” said Bulldogs forward Nemanja Djurisic, whose team’s most recent loss came Saturday, when Alabama’s Trevor Releford drained a 60-footer at the buzzer to give the Crimson Tide a 61-58 victory.

[+] EnlargeGeorgia
AP Photo/Vasha Hunt/Alabama Media GroupEven with Alabama's win over Georgia last weekend, the Bulldogs' average margin of loss in a 13-game stretch in SEC play is just 4.6 points.
But while Djurisic and the Bulldogs have lost more than their fair share of heartbreakers since late January, they have also proved something to themselves.

“We know we can compete with any team in the league if we play the way we can play to win,” Freshman All-SEC point guard Charles Mann said. “So that’s not really a big problem with us. It gave us a lot of confidence.”

This young Georgia team got off to an atrocious start, first by dropping seven of their first nine games of the season and then by starting SEC play with a 1-4 mark. And yet as the season progressed, SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the way, freshmen like Mann, forward Brandon Morris and shooting guard Kenny Gaines began to settle in and the Bulldogs suddenly became competitive.

Entering Thursday’s SEC tournament opener against LSU (18-11, 9-9 SEC), Georgia (15-16, 9-9) has won eight of its last 13 conference games -- and every game the Bulldogs lost easily could have been a victory. Their widest margin of defeat in that 13-game stretch was a 10-point loss at Ole Miss, but that came in overtime after forward Donte Williams missed a tip-in that would have won the game at the end of regulation. Including that loss, Georgia’s average margin of defeat in those games is just 4.6 points.

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KCP's role changes as sophomore 

October, 18, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Away from the court, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope does not seem like the type of guy who would get overly excited about anything. But the soft-spoken sophomore and Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox admit that there were times in his Freshman All-SEC season where he simply was not under control.

“I think Kentavious is really naturally a very quiet, soft-spoken young man, but when the scoreboard turns on or when we start playing, his personality changes and he cares about winning, he cares about playing hard and sometimes we have to slow him down,” Fox said.

“I think looking back at last year, he had a lot of plays defensively where maybe he picked up a foul or two because he didn’t know how to control his motor, he was so aggressive.”

UGA freshmen have chance to start 

October, 12, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Fox proved he isn’t afraid to play freshmen by giving heavy minutes to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Nemanja Djurisic last season. Georgia’s basketball coach all but guaranteed on Tuesday that he will do more of the same this season with newcomers Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Brandon Morris.


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Notebook: Fox likes Georgia's depth 

October, 10, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Fox doesn’t know for sure how his reconstructed team will fare against an expanded SEC schedule, but Georgia’s basketball coach thinks this will be the deepest and most athletic Bulldogs team he has fielded.

The Bulldogs lost starting guards Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware from last season’s 15-17 club, but the roster of key contributors otherwise remains intact plus three freshmen -- point guard Charles Mann, shooting guard Kenny Gaines and small forward Brandon Morris -- who will play key roles this season.

“We have more pieces this year,” Fox said at Tuesday’s season-opening press conference. “We’re a deeper basketball team, we’re more athletic than we were, we’re a more physical group, certainly a more experienced group than we were last year. We are going to miss the experience of Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware in the backcourt, but that’s really the only key pieces we lost off last year’s team.

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Fox dishes on Samuel L. Jackson's visit 

August, 27, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Samuel L. Jackson didn’t reveal the contents of the mysterious briefcase he carried in “Pulp Fiction,” but the actor shared plenty of thoughts on life with Mark Fox and his Georgia basketball team when he visited Athens last week.

Jackson
Jackson
Fox said he and assistant coach Stacey Palmore hounded Jackson with questions during a round of golf, and he met with Georgia’s basketball and football teams that afternoon, as well.

“He was very gracious talking about different characters he played and how much preparation goes into it and how he got into acting. You name it,” Fox said. “He was very open and talked about how stars deal with fame and how some people mismanage their money and what pitfalls guys can fall into. He talked to our team about some of that, which I thought was terrific. He was as down to Earth as you can imagine and I really appreciated his approach to it. I don’t know if he enjoyed it, but we sure did.”

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Not only has Brandon Morris been practicing to become a college basketball player since he arrived on Georgia’s campus last month, he has also taken time to sharpen his international etiquette.

[+] EnlargeKentavious Caldwell-Pope
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesGeorgia starter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope won't see a lot of playing time in Italy, as coaches will focus on getting to know the newcomers.
The freshman forward and his new teammates leave for Italy on Friday and they’ve already received some basic instructions on the differences between Italian and American culture.

“It’s a certain way you’ve got to go eat in restaurants, like a way you’ve got to hold your fork, a way you’ve got to place things,” Morris said.

The NCAA permits college basketball programs to make such a trip every four years and Bulldogs coach Mark Fox targeted this summer as an opportune time because of the youth on his roster. Morris is one of four UGA freshmen and five sophomores -- including returning starters Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the team’s top returning scorer, and Nemanja Djurisic -- all of whom will benefit greatly from the 10 practice days leading up to the trip and the three exhibition games they will play while in Italy.

“I think the trip really for us began with the practices,” Fox said. “We started being able to really practice with this team and see what they can do so I think without question we see it as a business trip and as an educational trip. They’ll certainly have some chances to do some fun things, too.”

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MACON, Ga. -- When he arrived at the University of Georgia, Mark Fox circled the summer of 2012 as the ideal time to take his Bulldogs basketball team on an NCAA-permitted summer tour.

Nemanja Djurisic
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comTo focus on the Bulldogs' rebuilding, rising sophomore G Nemanja Djurisic passed up an opportunity to play with his native Montenegro's national
team this summer.
Because of the leadership turnover on his roster, the Bulldogs’ nine-day trip to Italy in August will be particularly valuable as a team-building exercise. Georgia’s four new signees -- Kenny Gaines, Brandon Morris, Charles Mann and Houston Kessler -- will even be allowed to join the team in Italy, so the practice and game time allotted before and during the trip will give the Bulldogs a head start in preparing for life without departed guards Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware.

“We thought this might be the time to go,” Fox said Tuesday at the UGA Day gathering in Macon. “It’s unfortunate that it’s an Olympic year, but it’s a perfect time for our team to go because we had a lot of young guys that played a lot last year. We return all those guys, and we’ve got a lot of new, young faces. It’ll give all those guys a chance to jell, figure out who the leader is on the court and get used to each other.”

Sophomore forward Nemanja Djurisic would have missed the trip had he decided to compete for the national team of his home country, Montenegro. Djurisic was a member of the national team several times as a junior player, but decided the timing was not right for him to join the team this summer.

“He had an opportunity to, but just felt like the time commitment was just too great,” Fox said. “He was going to have to be gone for nearly two months and he just didn’t feel like that was the wisest thing to do. So he’ll hope to play for them again later.”

The NCAA permits a basketball program to take such a trip every four years, allowing teams to practice 10 times leading up to the trip.

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How the game was won: Georgia (15-16) used an 18-4 run in the second half to build a 13-point lead and then withstood a late Mississippi State (21-11) charge to advance to the second round of the SEC tournament and potentially knock State off the NCAA tournament bubble.

Stat of the game: Dustin Ware had a couple of his early 3-pointers rattle out and he went to halftime without having scored a single point. But Georgia’s senior guard hit three 3s and another long jumper during the 18-4 run, helping his team take control. He scored 13 points in the second half.

Player of the game: Gerald Robinson. Georgia’s senior point guard set the tone for the Bulldogs’ offense throughout, scoring 12 of his 23 points in the first half and providing several clutch baskets in the second half, as the Bulldogs fought to hold onto their lead.

Unsung hero of the game: Nemanja Djurisic. The freshman post seemed to have his work cut out against Mississippi State’s stellar frontcourt, but he had one of his best games of the season. Djurisic’s 11 points and 10 rebounds marked his first career double-double.

What it means: After a severe second-half swoon, it’s possible -- maybe even likely -- that Mississippi State played itself out of the Big Dance. Meanwhile, Georgia survives to face a Vandy team that beat Georgia in both of their meetings during the regular season. Tip-off is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET Friday in New Orleans.

Game rewind: Georgia 76, Florida 62 

February, 25, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s 76-62 win against Florida on Saturday was a big upset by any measure, but it’s not like the Bulldogs stole a win from the 12th-ranked Gators.

Not only did the Bulldogs never trail, they led even before the opening tipoff.

Gerald Robinson hit a pair of free throws before tipoff after the referees called an administrative technical foul on Florida’s Casey Prather for dunking during pregame warmups. It was a precursor of things to come, as Robinson and the Bulldogs (13-15, 4-10 SEC) would score with uncharacteristic efficiency throughout while the Gators (22-7, 10-4) regularly shot themselves in the foot.

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Rapid reaction: Georgia 76, Florida 62

February, 25, 2012
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How the game was won: Georgia (13-15, 4-10 SEC) came out of the gates hot, hitting 54 percent of its shots in the first half, while No. 12 Florida’s perimeter-based offense struggled. The Bulldogs led 36-27 at halftime and for around double digits for much of the second half. The Bulldogs played off the energy from an enthusiastic home crowd at Stegeman Coliseum -- Georgia’s first good crowd since a loss to Kentucky in late January -- to hand the Gators (22-7, 10-4) an unsightly SEC loss.

Stat of the game: 53 percent. Georgia shot only 36 percent in its 22-point loss at Florida earlier this season, but the Bulldogs were uncharacteristically efficient on offense for much of Saturday’s contest. The Bulldogs made 27 of 51 shots from the floor, good for a 53-percent field-goal percentage.

Player of the game: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Georgia’s freshman guard scored only eight points and went 3-for-13 from the floor in the Bulldogs’ visit to Gainesville, but he was a force on Saturday. KCP led five Bulldogs in double figures with 18 points, including a resounding breakaway dunk with 48 seconds remaining that pushed Georgia’s lead back into double digits.

Unsung hero of the game: Nemanja Djurisic. The freshman forward scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds in a two-minute stretch of the second half where Georgia pushed its lead to 15 points and the possibility of an upset grew more likely.

What it means: Georgia entered the game on a serious slump, having lost three in a row, but the win against the hated Gators was unquestionably the Bulldogs’ biggest win of the year. Florida lost one of its most significant frontcourt players when Will Yeguete went down with a season-ending broken foot on Tuesday against Auburn. In his absence, the Gators seem to have lost some of their defensive energy -- a problem they will need to remedy before the SEC tournament begins.

Rapid reaction: Vanderbilt 61, UGA 52

February, 19, 2012
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How the game was won: Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins hit four 3-pointers and a layup in a seven-minute stretch during the second half, helping the Commodores (19-8, 8-4) build the game’s first double-digit lead and pull away for a hard-fought road win over Georgia (12-14, 3-9).

Turning point: Georgia actually led 40-35 with 13:38 left in the game, but Jenkins led a 15-0 run to put the Commodores up 50-40 with 8:05 remaining.

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Game rewind: Georgia 81, Arkansas 59 

February, 8, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Whatever could have gone right for Georgia against Arkansas on Wednesday went right to near perfection in a surprising 81-59 win that could damage the Razorbacks’ hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

“I feel like everybody was playing hard and we were defending,” said Georgia senior Gerald Robinson, who led the Bulldogs with a career-high 27 points. “I think we held them to a pretty good shooting percentage [26 percent] in the first half, so that’s the main thing. Everybody was defending -- all five people on the floor, helping each other out. I feel like that was a big team-building moment for us tonight.”

A Bulldogs team (11-12, 2-7 SEC) that has struggled offensively throughout the season scored 81 points, a season high for a regulation game, and won by their largest margin of the regular season. That included a scorching 53-percent shooting effort from the floor and 9-for-20 from 3-point range.

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How the game was won: Tennessee (11-12, 3-5 SEC) closed the game on a 39-21 run, gaining retribution for its eariler loss at Georgia (10-12, 1-7) by capitalizing on another late-game scoring lapse by the Bulldogs. Georgia led 41-34 when Nemanja Djurisic made a jumper with 14:42 left in the second half before Tennessee launched its scoring run.

Stat of the game: 34-16. Tennessee’s bench outscored Georgia’s 34-16. Djurisic and John Florveus contributed 15 of those points on a combined 6-for-19 shooting.

Player of the game: Jeronne Maymon. The Tennessee forward not only scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, he also helped get Georgia’s two best post players, Donte Williams and Marcus Thornton, in foul trouble. Both players eventually fouled out, helping Tennessee close out the win with points in the paint.

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