After nearly a month away from the friendly confines of Stegeman Coliseum, Georgia is a more than a little homesick.
The Bulldogs have played just one home game in the past month, but they hope the extended road swing will make them a better team in the long run.
"We haven’t played here in so long. We just can’t wait for the day to come," Georgia forward Chris Barnes said. "It’s tough to play that many road games, because the home crowd wants to see us play, too. But it’s going to benefit us. We’re a team that’s looking to go to the (NCAA) Tournament, and to get there you’re going to have to play on the road."
Georgia (6-2) faces Arkansas State (3-6) at noon today in Stegeman Coliseum.
The last time Georgia played at home, it survived a dramatic ending to subdue Alabama-Birmingham 66-64 on Dec. 3.
Because of final exams, the Bulldogs have not played since winning at Georgia Tech 73-72 on Dec. 7 and are 3-0 at home this season.
"The schedule really kind of fell that way," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "It was kind of hard to schedule this year because we thought we were going to have a better team, and I think other people saw that. Getting it to fall in place where you have a home game followed by a road game really didn’t happen. For us not to play at home and to have Trey (Thompkins’) injury and for us to be sitting where we are, we’ve gotten through it OK. Now we need to take advantage of where we are."
Thompkins missed the first three games of the season with a high-ankle sprain and returned for the Bulldogs’ Thanksgiving trip to the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.
He played five games before the team went on an 11-day break for exams.
"I got a lot of time to practice and got a lot of reps," Thompkins said. "I got a lot of extra work in rehab to make sure I’m progressing enough and not falling backwards. I feel a lot better. I’m starting to get my shape back and getting back into the flow of things. Things are getting better for us."
The beginning and the end of the stretch were milestone wins for Fox’s program. Winning in St. Louis stopped an 11-game losing skid in opponents’ gyms and the first true road win since Fox took over after the 2008-09 season.
Beating Georgia Tech was Georgia’s first victory against the Yellow Jackets in Alexander Memorial Coliseum since 2000 and gave the Bulldogs a two-game winning streak against their biggest in-state rival.
"It gives us a lot of momentum," Barnes said. "We were on the bus coming back from Tech and saying, ‘Man, last year we were 0-2 on the road.’ So it finally feels good to get that monkey off of our backs and start winning on the road, especially against Georgia Tech. It teaches us how to win on the road. It’s been a long time coming."
Georgia is 3-2 away from Stegeman Coliseum this season and all those games came since beating Colorado 83-74 on Nov. 16.
The Bulldogs began the stretch by winning at Saint Louis 61-59 on a buzzer-beating shot by Jeremy Price. They ended the stretch in similar fashion as Dustin Ware’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds left gave them a 73-72 win over Georgia Tech. The two losses were neutral-court games at the Old Spice Classic.
"We love to play in Stegeman and we take pride in playing in Stegeman," Thompkins said. "For some reason, we play so much better in Stegeman and hopefully we can keep that going. We like the effect of being at home and protecting something that’s ours. The SEC’s a tough league and you’re going to have to play well both at home and on the road. These away games are going to help us for later in the season."
Arkansas State at Georgia
► WHEN: Noon today.
► WHERE: Stegeman Coliseum.
► TV/RADIO: CSS/The Ref 960-AM.
► RECORDS: Georgia is 6-2; Arkansas State is 3-6.
► PROBABLE STARTERS: Arkansas State – F Martavius Adams (Jr., 6-8, 255, 12.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg); F Brandon Peterson (So., 6-7, 175, 6.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg); G Rashad Allison (Sr., 6-1, 175, 6.6 ppg, 3.7 apg); G Trey Finn (So., 6-2, 205, 7.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Donald Boone (Sr., 6-4, 205, 10.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg).
Georgia – F Travis Leslie (Jr., 6-4, 205, 14.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg); F Trey Thompkins (Jr., 6-10, 240, 17.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg); F Jeremy Price (Sr., 6-8, 270, 10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg); G Dustin Ware (Jr., 5-11, 182, 8.1 ppg, 3.4 apg); G Gerald Robinson (Jr., 6-1, 180, 14.9 ppg, 5.4 apg).
► SERIES: Georgia leads 1-0.
► LAST MEETING: Georgia beat Arkansas State 80-68 in the first round of the Hawaii Rainbow Classic in 2001.
► SEASON AT A GLANCE: Georgia has played just one home game in the last 31 days and comes off of a 73-72 road win against Georgia Tech. Arkansas State started the season with five straight losses but has won three of its last four. The Red Wolves come off of a 77-53 win against Alabama State on Dec. 11.
► NOTEWORTHY: Former Georgia guard Corey Butler graduated with a degree in microbiology on Friday. … Georgia scheduled workouts around Friday’s fall commencement because the men’s and women’s practice gyms were used as graduation staging areas. … Georgia has not played since beating Georgia Tech on Dec. 7. … Trey Thompkins needs 12 points to reach 1,000 for his career. … Georgia has won all three of its home games. … Close finishes have been standard operating procedure for Georgia this season with no game decided by more than nine points. Five of those games, all wins, were decided by three or fewer points. … Arkansas State’s head coach is former LSU coach John Brady. His assistant is former Mississippi State coach Richard Williams. … Arkansas State took No. 18 Memphis to overtime before losing 78-71 on Dec. 1. The Red Wolves also have a 68-60 loss at Ole Miss in November. … Arkansas State has two players from Georgia. Martavius Adams went to Wilkinson County and is a transfer from Oklahoma State. Kinley Branch is from Stone Mountain.