The Georgia Bulldogs opened the 2022-23 season on Monday with a solid showing at home in a 13-point victory over Western Carolina. Now, the Bulldogs turn their attention to one of three ACC foes they’re set to face this year.
Georgia (1-0) hits the road Friday to face off with Wake Forest (1-0) in an 8:30 pm ET showdown that will be televised on ACC Network. The Bulldogs enter the matchup off a 68-55 victory over the Catamounts, while Wake Forest disposed of Fairfield 71-59 to open the season.
georgia head Mike White explained after beating Western Carolina that playing the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem in the second game of the season isn’t exactly ideal. Still, White emphasized it offers the Bulldogs an opportunity to learn more about themselves versus a team that won 24 games and reached the NIT quarterfinals last season.
White explained a lot of the preparation when it comes to Wake Forest stems from its season opener given how different the Demon Deacons’ roster is from a season ago. At the same time, the main focus is on Georgia as the team looks to shore up some of its issues from Game 1.
“Before we watched any Wake Forest film, we dove into our last game heavily, offensively and defensively. We’ve just got so far to go in so many different areas,” White told reporters Thursday. “So much of it is going to be about us, and there’s only a certain amount that we’ll learn about Wake, and again, with a small sample size is probably an added incentive to focus a ton. Especially this early in the season, especially with a new staff and nine new players at Georgia.”
Georgia will likely play Friday’s game down a key contributor, as White told reporters on Thursday that forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe is questionable due to an ankle injury suffered in the first half of Monday’s victory. Moncrieffe had 6 points and 4 rebounds in 13 minutes of action against Western Carolina.
Shortly after beating the Catamounts, White pointed to better valuing the basketball, cutting down on defensive fouls and playing better in transition as crucial areas that needed to be improved. White credited Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes with putting defenses in tough situations with ball screens and isolations, which will force the Bulldogs to take a considerable step forward from their season opener.
Wake Forest enters Friday’s game after a so-so showing against Fairfield that saw the Demon Deacons shoot 39% from the field, beyond the Stags 39-33 but only commit 10 turnovers. Forward Andrew Carr and guards David Williamson and Cameron Hildreth led the Demon Deacons with 14 points apiece, with Carr scoring the team’s first 10 points.
Friday’s matchup between Georgia and Wake Forest will mark the first time the two teams have faced off since 2007. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they have a pair of players who have gone up against the Demon Deacons before.
Georgia forward Jabri Abdur Rahim and center Frank Anselem have some experience playing Wake Forest thanks to Abdur-Rahim playing at Virginia and Anselem playing at Syracuse. Abdur-Rahim recalled dealing with a lot of ball screen action against the Demon Deacons while he was a Cavalier, while Anselem remembered going up against future NBA players Alondes Williams and Jake LaRavia and playing in Wake Forest’s LJVM Coliseum.
“I’ve been in that arena. We lost in overtime, by the way,” Anselem said, referring to Syracuse’s 77-74 loss to Wake Forest in January. “That one stuck with me, so going back there this weekend, I’m excited.”
Abdur-Rahim explained his biggest takeaway from Georgia’s first game was taking care of the ball, which he said was a focus in the practices since Monday’s 21-turnover performance. The junior understands the Bulldogs will have their hands full on Friday night, but he is confident his squad won’t back down from the challenge.
“It’s going to be a really good test. We get to see where we’re at,” Abdur-Rahim said. “Like Coach said, it’s an ACC opponent in game two — a really good opponent on the road — so it’s going to be a great test. As competitors we’re ready to go and we’re really looking forward to it.”