Georgia officially became a college basketball powerhouse Monday, passing North Carolina in the latest Ratings Percentage Index standings.
That's an obvious stretch, as the Bulldogs rank 89th nationally and the struggling Tar Heels 92nd, but coach Mark Fox's first season in Athens has produced notable growth. Georgia (12-13) already has matched last season's victory total, and it is 4-8 in Southeastern Conference play after going 3-13 last year.
The Bulldogs have defeated Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in Stegeman Coliseum and Illinois in Duluth, but they are 0-10 outside the Peach State entering Thursday's date at Vandy.
"The road has been something we've yet to conquer," Fox said Monday. "To begin with, we had just a terrible mentality. Our first trip, we had guys forget their shoes and just really had an approach that wasn't conducive to us being successful.
"We've made some strides, but when you're playing away from home and playing good teams, you have to play 40 minutes of sound basketball."
Should the Bulldogs lose in Nashville, they would be 0-7 in SEC road games for a third straight year. They won their road finale two years ago against Auburn before their improbable run to the SEC tournament title, and they spoiled Kentucky's senior night last season.
"I think they're starting to understand now just how complete you have to be to be able to win away from home," Fox said. "You can't just rely on one end of the floor to carry you."
Block party imminent
Mississippi State senior forward Jarvis Varnardo had seven blocked shots in the second half of Saturday's 60-59 win at LSU and needs seven more to tie the NCAA record of 535 career blocks set by Louisiana-Monroe's Wojciech Myrda in 2002. The NCAA began keeping statistics for blocked shots in 1985.
"One of the things that makes this particularly impressive is that Jarvis was not a heavily recruited player," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "We offered him (a scholarship) at Tennessee, and I think he chose between us and Mississippi State. He was thought to be a guy who would develop, because he was thin and not particularly skilled.
"Mississippi State has done a great job with him in his development. He is one of the few guys in the country that you absolutely have to game plan around."
Varnardo's first crack at the record occurs Wednesday against Alabama.
Missing the mark
South Carolina senior guard Devan Downey has averaged 22.2 points in his last five SEC games after averaging 31.6 in his first seven. Downey has made 32 of 106 field-goal attempts (30.2 percent) the past five games, including a 9-of-38 showing (23.7 percent) in two losses to Tennessee.
"It's probably a combination of things," Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn said, "but he went through a stretch there where he was playing at a level and making shots in a way that was probably unparalleled in all of college basketball for about a two-week stretch. I don't know that there has been that great a drop-off on the whole.
"He's always been a high-volume scorer and has never been a high-percentage guy."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...