ATHENS — Georgia faces the ultimate SEC basketball litmus test against league leader Alabama on Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum with the nation looking on.
The No. 5-ranked Crimson Tide is an 8-point favorite over the Bulldogs in the 2 p.m. tip in Athens (TV: CBS).
Alabama beat Georgia by a 115-82 count earlier this season in Tuscaloosa, shooting a scalding 60 percent from beyond the 3-point line (18 of 30) in the runaway victory.
Coach Tom Crean said if there’s a game his team would want back, it would be that one because the Bulldogs didn’t play well on either end of the court.
“I think if there’s any game that you want to play in this league, after the way we played there, it would be this game,” Crean said.
“We’ve got to guard the ball better, (and) I’d like to say we have to shoot it better, we really do — we couldn’t throw it in the ocean that game,” Crean said, noting UGA was just 2-of-19 shooting the 3-ball against Alabama.
“It was a problem. We missed lay-ups, we missed threes. There were numerous places in the game where a couple of things go right, and it changes the flow of the game. And in that game, too many times, it went against us and for them.”
The Saturday game between Georgia (14-10, 7-10 SEC) and Alabama (20-6, 15-2) is the final regular-season game for both teams.
It’s a matchup that wasn’t even on the original schedule but came to existence last week when the SEC league office shuffled the schedule to account for Texas A&M’s number of postponed games.
The Aggies, stricken with COVID-related issues throughout the season, have played just nine conference games. Georgia was one of the games Texas A&M postponed.
Georgia landed an extra home game when the league shuffled the slate — the Bulldogs were supposed to play at Texas A&M — but UGA also landed Alabama as a result of the revised schedule.
Tide coach Nate Oats, a semifinalist for Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year, is looking to get his team on track for an SEC Tournament run.
“It would be nice to play a great game on both sides of the ball and get ourselves rolling for the SEC Tournament,” said Oats, whose team won’t play in the league tourney until next Friday.
“That’s the plan…. We’re not trying to rest guys, we’re trying to get on a roll. We have six days between games, we won’t play until Friday.”
Georgia has the look of a No. 10 seed in the SEC tourney, which would put the Bulldogs in a 6 p.m. game on Thursday, likely against Ole Miss.
First things first, Georgia is aiming for what would be a signature win to close their season in Athens.
“We definitely remember that game,” said Justin Kier, one of three UGA graduate transfer seniors. “ I’m not saying we’re looking back and are worried about that game, but I know we remember it, and don’t want that same outcome.
“I believe in our coaching staff and my teammates, and our whole entire organization,” Kier said. “I believe in all the work we’ve put in and that it shows. I absolutely think we can win any game in this league.”
Georgia sophomore point guard Sahvir Wheeler will also look to extend his school-record for assists against the Tide.