Arkansas has reasons to be sky-high coming into today’s game at Georgia after Michael Qualls skied to make a put-back, two-handed jam that beat the buzzer in a home overtime upset of Kentucky in Bud Walton Arena Tuesday night.
While the Razorbacks are tough to beat at home — No. 7 Florida needed overtime to snap its 23-game home winning streak a week ago — they have all kinds of trouble getting wins on the road.
The road wasn’t kind to Georgia on Tuesday either. Its fast Southeastern Conference start hit a big bump when the Bulldogs were whipped 72-50 at Florida.
Georgia (8-7, 2-1 SEC) gets a chance for some home cooking now, with its next two games and five of its next seven in Stegeman Coliseum.
“Playing at home, you kind of get the upper hand,” sophomore forward Brandon Morris said. “You’re more comfortable. These are the rims that you shoot on every other day or every day. We’ve been traveling everywhere and that kind of takes a toll on you.”
The Bulldogs played four of their previous five games on the road, three against ranked opponents, including a 70-64 win at No. 21 Missouri.
Now they welcome a chance to build on their conference start at home.
“You’ve got to work to really protect your home court,” coach Mark Fox said. “There’s a lot of balance across our league and protecting your home court is going to be important.”
Said guard Charles Mann: “Hopefully we can string some wins and then get back on the road and try to do the same.”
They are keeping track of the road woes for Arkansas (12-4, 1-2) under coach Mike Anderson. The Razorbacks fell to 3-25 outside of Arkansas under Anderson after a 69-53 loss to Texas A&M on Jan. 8, according to the Arkansas News Bureau.
The Razorbacks also struggled away from home before he got to Fayetteville, but Georgia has its guard up today.
“They have long, athletic players who can shoot the ball,” Mann said. “We’re going to have to play well and execute and defend like we did against Missouri and Alabama in order to win.”
Georgia unraveled in the first half against Florida during a stretch in which it was outscored 26-4. Fox said decision-making on the back end of the Gators’ press proved costly.
“You know fourth road game out of five, third game in seven days, we mentally kind of gave in,” Fox said. “We got mentally weak and kind of gave in for seven or eight minutes. We’ve got to be tougher than that.”
Added Mann: “We weren’t patient enough to execute on offense or take care of the ball.”
Florida’s press led to turnovers once Georgia got the ball past midcourt. In one stretch, Morris threw the ball away after getting trapped and then traveled the next time.
“I think it was the pressure, it was the crowd, this one little period where we really fell and couldn’t do much,” forward Nemanja Djurisic said. “They were shooting 3s really well and the pressure and the environment took the best out of us.”
Georgia thrived in its home environment in a win against Alabama a week ago. Fox said after the game that “our crowd lifted us up.”
The Bulldogs hope for more of the same today and in the coming home games.