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December 5, 2006As an alumnus of the University of Georgia and an Atlanta native, Rick Scruggs says he keeps up with Georgia even when the Bulldogs are not on his Gardner-Webb schedule.
Tuesday night's game had Scruggs thinking it might be better to watch Georgia from a safer distance.
Georgia's 96-67 rout of Gardner-Webb on Tuesday night gave Scruggs, a 1979 graduate, an up-close update on the progress of his alma mater.
Scruggs' ambitious early season schedule has included road losses to Texas Tech, North Carolina and North Carolina State. Scruggs says North Carolina, which crushed Gardner-Webb 103-50 on Nov. 19, "is so good it's unbelievable," but he says coach Dennis Felton's Georgia team compares favorably with any other team he has seen.
"I think Georgia has a chance to be really good," Scruggs said. "Being an alumnus, I keep up with it pretty good, and (Felton) is doing a heck of a job. He's doing it the right way."
Georgia built a big early lead with nine 3-pointers in the first half and power forward Takais Brown balanced the attack with 21 points.
Georgia's strength is its depth of wing players with Stukes, Mercer, Billy Humphrey and others, but the addition of Brown gives the Bulldogs a more balanced look.
"I think Georgia's inside game is better and they're more athletic than Texas Tech, and probably more so than N.C. State," Scruggs said, added Georgia also has more depth than N.C. State.
Georgia (6-1) won at Wake Forest on Saturday. With Tuesday night's win, it will take a five-game winning streak into its Dec. 16 game against No. 18 Gonzaga in Duluth.
Brown has scored in double figures as a reserve player in each of the five straight wins. Brown (6-8, 250), a transfer from Southeastern Illinois College, played only 21 minutes against Gardner-Webb, right on his average.
"That's what I was brought here to do," Brown said. "I'm a scorer and a rebounder."
After the barrage of 3-pointers in the first half, Georgia shifted its attack inside.
"Coach came in at halftime and said we got away from going into the post," Brown said. "We needed to keep pounding it inside."
Ricky McPhee, a former high school rival of Georgia's Mercer and Billy Humphrey in Gwinnett County, near Atlanta, and Chris Gash each had 12 points for Gardner-Webb.
Gardner-Webb (1-6) was coming off its only win, over Ferrum, after an 0-5 start.
Georgia made 9 of 14 3-point shots to take a 48-28 halftime lead, and it led by more than 30 points much of the second half.
Georgia shot 56.1 percent from the field and was 11 for 19 (57.9 percent) on 3-pointers.
Two years ago, a more experienced Gardner-Webb team led Georgia late in the game before Georgia rallied for a 67-62 win.
"They have improved by leaps and bounds," Scruggs said of Georgia.
Georgia junior center Dave Bliss, one of the few players on the team who was on the 2004-05 team that took the narrow victory over Gardner-Webb, says he was one of many players forced into action two years ago "and we really didn't know what we were doing."
"That's a different world," Bliss said.
"I feel we're poised now to take on some good teams in the next few weeks. I feel that experience from a couple years ago has stayed with a lot of guys who are here and it's helping us to appreciate this team we have now, to try to make the most of this team."
Felton said his team "took care of business."
"We held them to under 40 percent (37.3) from the floor and outrebounded them by about 20 (50-32)," Felton said. "We shot the ball well from 3-point range and got things done with good ball movement."
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