Bulldogs look to get their mojo back against LSU

For a while this season, Georgia was the surprise team in the SEC. The Bulldogs were 4-1 in SEC play and sat atop the standings.

But the Bulldogs took a shot of reality to the side of the head last week. A home loss to a Vanderbilt team playing with seven scholarship players was followed by a road loss to Auburn, the SEC’s lowest-ranked team.

And just like that, Georgia (10-10, 4-4 SEC) finds itself in the middle of the SEC pack. The Bulldog hopes to start clawing their way back toward the upper half with Thursday night’s home game against LSU (14-6, 5-3).

“Winning this game would put us right there with the top three,” said sophomore guard Charles Mann, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer. “So, yeah, this is a critical point. We’ve got to get things going.”

It won’t be easy. The Tigers, under coach Johnny Jones, have emerged as one of the league’s better teams. They knocked off Kentucky in Baton Rouge last week.

Having an extra day to prepare probably helps Georgia. The Bulldogs have been a beat-up bunch. Kenny Gaines, the starting shooting guard, missed two games with a thigh injury before returning Saturday. His backup Juwan Parker (hamstring) also played hurt.

In anticipation of the new SEC television network, which makes its debut later this year, the league is playing a more varied schedule this season. So it’s no longer only Wednesday and Saturday games with an occasional Tuesday appearance on TV.

Hence, a rare Thursday night show for the Bulldogs.

“A Thursday game probably helps us just a little bit,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “(Monday) was the first day we had both Kenny and Juwan practicing for over 10 days. So it gives us a chance for those guys to get some rhythm back and for us to get some practice time together. So in that way, a Thursday game certainly helps us. But it certainly shortens your preparation for the Saturday game.”

The Bulldogs play host to Texas A&M on Saturday.

If Georgia is going to have any chance against LSU, it will need to get its collective mind right. A three-game losing streak has damaged the Bulldogs’ already-fragile psyche.

“This has never been a group that has had great confidence,” Fox said. “You have to be mindful of that as a coach. But they’ve also won some good games and beaten some good teams this year. They’ve got to be able to understand how that happened, look at the mistakes we made the last week and play in a way that gives us a chance to win.”

Perhaps a little desperation will help.

“Right now, being in the middle of the pack, it’s important that we take this time to try to work our way back to the top,” senior Donte’ Williams said.