Florida and Kentucky got a spotlight game nationally Saturday night matching the Southeastern Conference’s top tier teams.
Hours earlier, Georgia staked its claim to being the conference’s No. 3 team.
They aren’t in the RPI but are in the SEC standings. Georgia began the day ranked 100th in the RPI, ninth in the SEC.
But Georgia’s 61-60 victory against Ole Miss at Stegeman Coliseum gave the Bulldogs third place all alone in the standings, a game ahead of the Rebels.
“The top four teams in the league play this weekend so it meant something,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox, whose team improved to 14-10 overall. “We got a chance to be in third place. As you start getting into late February, these games mean something. When you’re playing head to head with a team you’re tied with it’s going to be a battle.”
The Bulldogs (8-4) are one up on Ole Miss (7-5) and two games ahead of Tennessee, Missouri and Ole Miss (all at 6-6) after Kenny Gaines (21 points) went shot for shot with Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson (24 points).
Georgia forward Marcus Thornton was called for a flagrant foul with 1:55 left for an elbow to Henderson after he grabbed a rebound off the defensive board, but it ultimately didn’t cost Georgia like a similar call last year.
“I was pretty mad,” Thornton said. “I think the play went on a little too long but there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m just glad we were fortunate enough to come out with the win.”
Fox on what went through his mind: “Some things are better kept to myself, I guess. The game’s impossible to officiate right now with the rule changes. Every play could go either way. That play they got a chance to look at on the replay so they probably got it right.”
Fox said he probably should have called a timeout “to rescue” Thornton on the play.
The Bulldogs get Tennessee on Tuesday before going to South Carolina.
“Two games on the road next week,” Fox said, “so this was critical for us. …It was important that we take care of our home court. The crowd was terrific. It’s great to see that many people here and the energy in the building. That’s what college basketball should be about.”