ATHENS — Georgia basketball is back home looking to rebound and pop bubble team Arkansas in Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (14-14, 4-11 SEC) are catching the Razorbacks (18-10, 6-9) at a tough time with star Isaiah Joe back in the Arkansas lineup (TV: SEC Network).
Joe has returned from a knee injury to score 21 and 22 points in wins over Missouri (78-68) and Tennessee (86-69) in the last week, and the 6-5 guard promises to be a tough matchup for Georgia at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“They’re 17-5 when Isaiah Joe plays, they’re 1-5 without him,” UGA coach Tom Crean noted at a recent media availability in Athens. “He’s back and shooting 12 shots a game, pretty much 75 percent of his shots or more are threes.”
The Bulldogs could counter with 6-5 freshman Anthony Edwards, who Crean has said can play defense as well as score the basketball.
Edwards continues to lead all freshmen in the nation in scoring with 19.5 points per game. He’s coming off a 36-point effort in Georgia’s 94-90 overtime defeat at South Carolina last Wednesday.
Crean was vocal that he felt his team deserved the win, making mention of “50-50” calls that didn’t go the Bulldogs’ way on the road.
Conspiracy theorists might make a case that SEC officials will give the bubble teams with a chance to get into the NCAA tournament a break.
But the fact is Georgia has had opportunities to win in several of its close and difficult losses, and it has been more a matter of a young team learning to compete and play physical.
“The other night was a tough game to swallow, it really is,” Crean said. “It’s like what I said the other night, they deserve to win and so do we. We played hard enough to win on the road in a tough environment, but we have to move right on from that, get right after this and that’s a part of that maturity process, too.
Georgia will break the school’s season attendance mark with Saturday night’s home against Arkansas.
But the bigger reason to celebrate a win over the Razorbacks would be that it keeps the Bulldogs’ chances alive of getting a Wednesday (March 11) bye at the SEC tournament.
Georgia is two games out of the 12th-place spot, which draws a bye before opening play on Thursday in Nashville.
DawgNation Georgia basketball