ATHENS, Ga. -- His team had just won its fifth straight game, but Georgia coach Mark Fox had difficulty finding much to praise after Friday afternoon’s 58-51 win against Delaware State.
Fox didn’t even take much joy in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 60-foot heave at the halftime buzzer that put the Bulldogs up 32-29 after a lethargic first 20 minutes.
“We didn’t deserve for that to go in the way we were playing,” Fox said. “The game’s usually very fair. And I’m glad Kentavious made it, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not happy with how we played. I was not happy at halftime.”
Caldwell-Pope said he had never converted a shot that long, but Friday’s bomb was an example of practice paying off.
“We were in the gym just playing around one day this week and we were throwing up shots like that,” said Caldwell-Pope, who finished with 12 points and a career-high nine rebounds. “I guess that carried over to the game.”
Delaware State (4-7) shot 50 percent from the floor -- including 6 for 13 from 3-point range -- to hang with the Bulldogs (9-5) throughout the first half before Caldwell-Pope’s buzzer beater.
The game tipped off at mid-afternoon on a weekday -- it was the Bulldogs’ first day game of the season -- so Fox admitted he was concerned before the game about the possibility of sluggish play. Regardless of whether the start time was the reason, Fox said that’s what he saw on the defensive end.
“It was really our first afternoon game of the year, so I was a little concerned about that. But come on, that’s an excuse,” he said. “You’ve got to show up and play, and play well. You’re not going to play well every time, but you should play hard. We’ve been making some shots, but we’ve not been playing as hard defensively as I would like us to, especially to start the game.”
The Bulldogs picked it up on defense in the second half, holding the Hornets to 27 percent shooting from the floor. And they played one of their best games in the post, outrebounding Delaware State 40-26 and outscoring the Hornets 24-10 in the paint.
“Coach kept on preaching rebounding,” said forward Donte Williams, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. “In practice we’ve been doing a lot of rebounding drills. I know a lot of games the rebounding margin wasn’t really in our favor, so probably the biggest thing Coach wanted us to do was rebound the ball and get ready for the SEC because it’s more aggressive.”
Georgia -- which was led by Dustin Ware’s 15 points -- will carry its five-game winning streak into SEC play, as the Bulldogs’ next game will come Jan. 7 against Alabama.
But if the Bulldogs perform like they did Friday when they hit the conference slate, Fox does not think the outcome will be pretty.
“We can’t play like that and compete in the SEC,” he said. “We’ve got to grow up. I know our rotations are disjointed without Marcus [Thornton] and all that, but we need to saddle up and get ready.”