ATHENS — You won’t hear of too many college basketball coaches relishing an opportunity to play Kentucky in Rupp Arena, much less a team coming off a 32-point loss.
But that’s exactly where Georgia coach Tom Crean and his Bulldogs are right now, eager to prove themselves and make amends after an embarrassing 91-59 loss at Mississippi State on Saturday.
“I’m glad we’re going on the road again right now, I really am,” Crean said on Monday, standing outside his office in Stegeman Coliseum as fans strolled by en route to a gymnastics meet.
“We’ve got to go test ourselves.”
Georgia (11-6, 1-3 SEC) tips off at No. 15 Kentucky (13-4, 4-1) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (TV: ESPN) looking to get back their pride.
It wasn’t just that UGA lost to Mississippi State by such a lopsided margin, it was how they lost. Georgia was outrebounded 40-22, it was beat in transition and out-physicaled and out-toughed at each turn.
It was the first time this year’s edition of Georgia Bulldogs, featuring projected NBA lottery pick Anthony Edwards and a recharged Rayshaun Hammonds, looked like the sad sack group of a year ago.
Crean, as upset as he was about the Saturday night defeat, clearly believes in this year’s team and loves their disposition.
“I’m glad we get to go test ourselves right now, because we’ve got to bounce back and bounce back quickly from it,” said Crean, who won two outright Big Ten championships while at Indiana.
“We practiced well, we practiced confidently … we have very hard workers, we have guys that are diligent and want to be good. It wasn’t like we didn’t go do it a couple of weeks ago, and we have to remember that, as well.”
Indeed, Georgia’s 65-62 road win at then-No. 9 Memphis on Jan. 4 was a victory to build on. It was only the second time in UGA basketball history the program won a non-conference road game against a Top 25 team.
Beating Tennessee 80-63 last Wednesday after the Vols beat the Bulldogs by 46 a year ago was another program win.
While Georgia might not beat Kentucky on Tuesday — the odds say it probably won’t — Crean sounds confident his players will compete.
This, even though they were blown out at Auburn (82-60) and Mississippi State (91-59) in their first two SEC road games.
“We have to understand that whether we’re at home or whether we’re on the road, we have to play a physical style of game when it comes to getting into people blocking out,” Crean said.
“Or, going for 50-50 balls, getting back in transition defense, being more active with your hands, all of those kind of things.”
Georgia’s next home game is at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday against Ole Miss.
Georgia coach Tom Crean
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