LEXINGTON, Ky. — After a homestand that fell short of expectations, the Georgia men’s basketball team faces a daunting stretch on the road.
The Bulldogs, who lost two of three games on their longest SEC homestand of the season, play five of their next seven conference games away from Athens. The stretch starts with a 4 p.m. game Saturday at Kentucky, where Georgia’s all-time record is 5-54.
The Bulldogs (14-5, 3-3 SEC) beat Kentucky (15-4, 3-2) in Athens in both teams’ league opener on Jan. 8, but that remains Georgia’s only win of the season against an SEC East opponent. The Dogs subsequently lost at Vanderbilt and at home to Tennessee and Florida, dropping into the cellar of the closely bunched division.
“We’ve just got to get back up,” guard Dustin Ware said, “and just keep working and just keep trying to improve, like we’ve done all season.”
Granted, the Bulldogs are only ½ game behind the four teams tied for second place in the SEC East and two games behind first-place Florida. But the upcoming seven-game stretch looks almost ominous in the aftermath of a 1-2 homestand.
The Kentucky trip is followed by a game at Arkansas on Wednesday. Then, after returning home for an SEC game against Auburn on Feb. 5 and a non-conference game against Xavier on Feb. 8, the Bulldogs face conference games at South Carolina (Feb. 12), at home against Vanderbilt (Feb. 16), at Tennessee (Feb. 19) and at Florida (Feb. 24).
Both losses on the recent homestand were agonizing for the Bulldogs. They lost to Tennessee on a buzzer-beating put-back by Vols center Brian Williams, who later said he was surprised not to be called for a foul on the play, and lost to Florida in double overtime after a 30-foot shot by the Gators’ Erving Walker tied the game with one second left in the first overtime.
“There are worse things in life that are going to happen to [the players],” coach Mark Fox said after the loss to Florida. “They have no choice but to get back up, and they will. I’ll make sure they do that.”
Georgia figures to encounter a motivated and rested Kentucky team. The Wildcts lost to the Bulldogs 77-70 three weeks ago, and with no mid-week game this week, they’ve had extra time to prepare for the rematch.
“Georgia beat us good down there,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They played rougher than us; they played physical; they were good, from [Trey] Thompkins to their guard play to their physical defense. We couldn’t drive the ball and get a clean look. . . . They just manhandled us.”
Kentucky’s last loss in Lexington was on March 4, 2009 -– 90-85 to Georgia, led at the time by interim coach Pete Herrmann. The Wildcats have won 28 consecutive games in Rupp Arena since then, the nation’s second longest current home winning streak behind Duke’s 30.
Fox said the Bulldogs are “a little dinged up” with nagging injuries but “everybody is going to play. It’s just the normal things.” . . . Thompkins is among those dinged up. Fox wasn’t specific on Thompkins’ injury but said “he’ll play through it.” . . . Calipari on the Wildcats: “I think there’s no team in America that has more upside than this team.” . . . Kentucky has two of the SEC’s top five scorers: freshmen Terrence Jones (third at 18.3 points per game) and Brandon Knight (fifth at 17.6). . . . The Wildcats also have the SEC’s top two rebounders, Josh Harrellson (9.2 per game) and Jones (8.9). . . . Georgia’s all-time record vs. Kentucky is 25-112, with eight of the wins in the past 10 years.
– Tim Tucker, UGA Blog