With an 8:05 p.m. tip, Georgia’s basketball game against Arkansas Wednesday night was one of those slam-it-in-for-print kind of games. So following is a recast of my game story on the Bulldogs’ impressive 81-59 win updated with quotes from players and coaches, some minor tweeks and some addition quotes at the end.
ATHENS — Two teams on divergent paths met at Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday night. But it was the one supposedly heading downward that came out on top.
Georgia, which won one of its eight games during the first half of the SEC schedule, started the second by doubling its conference total with a 81-59 victory over Arkansas. The Razorbacks (16-8, 4-5 SEC) came in with wins over three ranked teams but searching for their first SEC road victory.
The Bulldogs (11-12, 2-7) got a career-high 27 points from senior guard Gerald Robinson — including 17 in the first half — along with five assists and SIX rebounds as the SEC’s worst offensive team trumped the league’s worst defensive team.
“We needed it bad,” said Robinson, whose previous career high was 22 points. “I think it came at the right time. Basketball is a long season, so it was time to turn it around. We need to keep going up from here.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 18 points, and Nemanja Djurisic (14) and Marcus Thornton (10) gave the Bulldogs four double-figure scorers for the first time since Dec. 27. Georgia shot a season best 52.6 percent from the field and out-rebounded Arkansas by the astounding mark of 44-21.
“Tonight we played very well,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “That’s probably as well as we’ve played maybe all year. No question about it.”
Georgia entered the game averaging only 56.2 points per game in SEC contests. It scored more than 80 points for just the second time this season. The Bulldogs return to the road to face Mississippi State, which was tied with Arkansas as the league’s worst defensive team.
Arkansas, which fell to 0-7 on the road this season, was led by freshman B.J. Young with 16 points and sophomore Madracus Wade, who had 15 points on five 3-point shots.
“I thought it was one our worst performances,” said first-year Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. “It was just flat. There was no energy and I’m probably the most surprised about that.”
The pregame environment didn’t hint at what was about to happen. Georgia students are taking mid-term exams this week, and they were uncharacteristically poorly represented. The Bulldogs’ poor record coupled with a late tipoff on a school night didn’t lend itself to a crowded, vibrant atmosphere.
But the Georgia players were unaffected by that. They came out blazing, quickly building an 6-0 lead on three baskets by Robinson and remained undeterred even after the Razorbacks tied the score at 8-all.
After playing to an 8-8 tie, the Bulldogs ran off 15 consecutive points, with four different players accounting for the scoring. Donte’ Williams dunked off a no-look, alley-oops pass from Robinson that gave Georgia a 23-8 lead with 8:15 remaining in the half.
“We were sick of losing,” said Djurisic, who was 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. “We wanted to play well from start to finish and we did that tonight. It came from everywhere. It came from every player.”
The Bulldogs built that into a 24-point advantage when Robinson made two free throws at the 2:08 mark. They would be both Georgia and Robinson’s last points of the half. He went to the locker room with 17. Caldwell-Pope had 13.
The 43 points were the most in a half this season for the Bulldogs.
There were a lot of firsts in the game. Thornton made a 3-pointer at the 6:55 mark of the first half. He had not made a field goal since he went out with an injury Dec. 20 against Mercer. He matched his career high with 10 points.
Freshman Tim Dixon also made a rare appearance — playing for the first time in five games — and recorded his first basket in six weeks.
“You’re having fun when you’re winning,” Robinson said. “Losing ain’t fun by no means. People just looked real confident out there. I was glad to see the looks I saw on their faces tonight. I was real proud of them.”