Bulldogs hope to take advantage of Razorbacks’ road struggles

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.

ARKANSAS at GEORGIA
WHEN/WHERE: 1:47 p.m. today/Stegeman Coliseum.
TV/RADIO: SEC-TV/The Ref 960-AM
RECORDS: Arkansas is 12-4. 1-2 SEC; Georgia is 8-7, 2-1 SEC;
PROBABLE STARTERS: Arkansas– Rashad Madden (Jr., 6-5, 180, 11.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg); G Fred Gulley III (RSr., 6-2, 182, 3.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg); G Michael Qualls (So., 6-6, 210, 13.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Coty Clarke (Sr., 6-7, 232, 8.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg); F Bobby Portis (Fr., 6-10, 242, 12.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg). Georgia – G Charles Mann (So., 6-5, 210, 13.6 ppg, 2.9 apg); G Kenny Gaines (So., 6-3, 195, 11.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg); F Brandon Morris (Jr., 6-7, 215, 8.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg; F Marcus Thornton (RJr., 6-8, 235, 7.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F Donte Williams (Sr., 6-9, 225, 5.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg.
SERIES: Arkansas leads 17-13.
LAST MEETING: The Razorbacks won Feb. 21, 2013 in Fayeteville, 62-60.  Arkansas’ B.J. Young hit a layup with five seconds left.
SEASON AT A GLANCE: Georgia is coming off a 72-50 loss at No. 7 Florida on Tuesday, but the Bulldogs have a chance to build on a 2-1 league start with home games against Arkansas and South Carolina before going to Kentucky a week from today. Arkansas is 1-2 in SEC play after upsetting Kentucky on a buzzer-beating jam by Qualls on Tuesday. The Razorbacks picked up quality nonconference wins against Minnesota and SMU, but lost by 16 at Texas A&M to open league play.
NOTEWORTHY: Georgia junior forward Nemanja Djurisic hasn’t made a field goal since scoring 16 points against Missouri. He is 0 of 9 from the field the past two games and scored a total of six points. “They’ve been guarding me really well, especially on the 3-point line,” said Djurisic, still tops on the team in 3-point shooting at 50 percent. “It’s a little bit hard to get a shot off but we’ll be fine.” … Reserve center John Cannon, who played three minutes against Florida and did not play the previous three games, has been dealing with an ankle injury that has improved, coach Mark Fox said. … Arkansas leads the SEC in scoring (84.7) and turnover margin (6.6), but is 11th in rebounding margin (0.1). Georgia is fifth in rebounding margin (3.9) and 12th in turnover margin (minus-2.1). … Arkansas’ Mike Anderson is 3-1 against Georgia in his career including at Missouri and Fox is 4-2 against Arkansas.
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@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

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