ATHENS – Brent Musberger will wrap up his long and storied broadcasting career on Tuesday night as he calls a Kentucky basketball game, whose rabid fan base will surely send him out warmly at its own storied arena, Rupp Arena.
Georgia’s basketball team will be there too.
Of course, merely showing up will arguably be more than the Bulldogs in their last trip there. They were embarrassed 82-48 at Rupp Arena last year, which by no means made them the first to suffer badly there.
Kentucky has an “edge” of 59-5 against Georgia in Rupp Arena, as UGA’s game notes delicately put it. The last six trips there have seen the Bulldogs lose by 34, 11, 25, 30, 6 and 12. Pete Herrmann, then coaching Georgia on an interim basis, was the last Georgia head coach to win at Rupp Arena, in 2009 at the tail end of the Billy Gillispie era.
Georgia has actually been competitive with the Wildcats lately – leading them in the second half at last year’s SEC semifinals, and two years ago at Stegeman Coliseum. And you can probably win a bar bet by asking someone to name the only two programs to make each of the past three SEC semifinals: Kentucky … and Georgia.
But there is a chasm between the programs, and nowhere has it been more evident than Rupp Arena. Georgia junior forward Yante Maten was asked if this team could be more competitive this time.
“Yeah we can. We can,” Maten said. “We’ve just got to make sure we play our basketball. Don’t be rattled. Be calm. And take it for what it is: Another game.”
But a game that will be again be exceedingly difficult to win. Georgia (13-8 overall, 4-4 in the SEC) is a 16.5-point underdog, according to Vegasinsider.com. It enters having lost three of its past five, barely escaping Saturday with a two-point win over Texas.
Kentucky (17-4, 7-1) is on a two-game losing streak, after losing at Tennessee and then at home to Kansas. That can’t help the Bulldogs’ cause, as the Wildcats will surely be motivated.
Georgia has plenty to play for too, as a victory would resuscitate its flagging NCAA tournament hopes. Hope isn’t gone, but a loss – by one point or 34 – would mean yet another missed chances for the kind of breakthrough win that Mark Fox and his team haven’t had.
Fox, in talking about Kentucky’s elite guards last Saturday, at least still had a sense of humor.
“D’Aaron Fox and I are not related,” Fox said. “But he got the family quickness.”
He was in a good mood because his team had just ended a two-game losing streak. But it was by no means a hugely impressive win. And Fox knew that.
“We’ll have to play much better than we played (against Texas) to give us a chance to win,” he said.