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Rewind: UGA prepares for ultimate challenge vs. Kentucky

Georgia guard J.J. Frazier appears to be rounding back into form as he comes back from a concussion suffered against Auburn two weeks ago. He had 10 points and five assists in 23 minutes in the win over Missouri on Saturday. (Photo from USA Today)

Georgia guard J.J. Frazier appears to be rounding back into form as he comes back from a concussion suffered against Auburn two weeks ago. He had 10 points and five assists in 23 minutes in the win over Missouri on Saturday. (Photo from USA Today)

MONDAY MORNING REWIND

1. Nice win for the Georgia Bulldogs this past weekend. For once, they were able to secure a  victory without much drama. They dispatched Missouri’s rebuilding squad 68-44 Saturday afternoon to improve to 19-9 overall and 10-6 in SEC play. The 24-point win was the largest margin of victory in an SEC contest under coach Mark Fox.

Now comes a slightly bigger challenge. Kentucky and the Big Blue Nation sweeps into
Athens on Tuesday for a 9 p.m., nationally-televised affair Tuesday night. The Wildcats are, of course, undefeated (29-0, 16-0 SEC) and ranked No. 1 in the nation. They clinched their 46th SEC regular-season championship on Saturday with an easier-than-the-score-indicates, 84-67 win over second-place Arkansas.

The Bulldogs actually gave Kentucky one of its better games of the year when they played Feb. 3rd in Lexington. Playing without leading scorer and rebounder Marcus Thornton, who was sidelined with a concussion, Georgia lost 69-58.

“It’s not like ‘Oooh, we hung with Kentucky,” sophomore guard J.J. Frazier said Saturday. “I feel like we can play with anybody in the country. Our best player wasn’t playing. You get a little bit more confident because, as I call (Thornton), ‘The Boss’ wasn’t down in the paint.”

Georgia has actually beaten Kentucky in two of its last three trips to Athens, winning 72-62 in 2013 and 77-70 in 2011. They did not play in Athens last year.

Kentucky's Trey Lyles, who scored 18 in Saturday's win over Arkansas, said the undefeated Wildcats get even more motivated when pundits believe their opponent has a chance to beat them. Many have pointed to Georgia as capable of pulling off the upset. (AP photo)

Kentucky’s Trey Lyles, who scored 18 in Saturday’s win over Arkansas, said the undefeated Wildcats get even more motivated when pundits believe their opponent has a chance to beat them. Many have pointed to Georgia as capable of pulling off the upset. (AP photo)

2. Kentucky is trying to become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to record a perfect season. Meanwhile, for more than a month now, the Bulldogs have posted the best odds in Las Vegas of knocking off Kentucky this season. Georgia once were given an 11 percent chance of pulling off the upset, though that has dissipated to single digits with the Wildcats’ dominance in recent weeks.

Of course, people were saying that about the Razorbacks before Saturday’s rout.

“When we hear that a team’s going to challenge us, maybe could beat us, we take that personally,” Kentucky forward Trey Lyles said. “We want to go out there and show those people that said that differently.”

UGA is asking for Georgia fans to “black-out” Stegeman Coliseum by wearing black to the game, which already is a solid sell-out.

3. The good news for the Bulldogs is, win or lose, the Kentucky game is not expected to negatively impact their chances of earning an NCAA bid. Despite Saturday’s win, Georgia’s RPI actually fell from the high-20s to the low-30s because Missouri’s RPI is now in the 200s. But with Kentucky’s RPI being so strong, a loss won’t likely drop UGA much, if at all.

Now the same could not be said of Saturday’s regular-season finale at Auburn. The Bulldogs have already sustained one significant hit with a loss to the 138th-ranked Tigers. Another defeat could put Georgia back in an uncomfortable place as an at-large consideration.

“I think we’ve got a little bit more work to do,” Frazier said. “We all think that. We can’t settle on the wins we have because we have more games.  We gave away two games (to Auburn and South Carolina) at home where we don’t lose much. So we made it tough for ourselves. But our back was against the wall and we’re starting to fight out of it. We’ve got to continue to do so. If we do it together, anything is possible.”

As for the SEC tournament (March 11-15 in Nashville), the best the Bulldogs can do is the No. 3 seed. That, of course, comes with the coveted “double-bye,” which goes to the league’s top four teams. A third or sixth seed lands Georgia in the bracket opposite of Kentucky. Fourth or fifth puts it on the same side as the Wildcats. But either way they wouldn’t meet until the semifinals.

The good news out of Georgia dropping three games to Georgia Southern is the arm injury suffered by pitcher Robert Tyler does not to appear to be season-ending. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

The good news out of Georgia dropping three games to Georgia Southern is the arm injury suffered by pitcher Robert Tyler does not to appear to be season-ending. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

4. Whatever credibility the Georgia baseball team gained by taking two of three from No. 12 FSU in the season’s second week was lost this past weekend in Statesboro. The Bulldogs (6-4) suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of Georgia Southern (8-4). All three were one-run games.

“The bottom line is we didn’t get it done,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “We didn’t deserve to win. We had poor at-bats in crucial situations and we didn’t play well in our first road trip. You have to credit Georgia Southern because they got the clutch hits and made the pitches when we had our chances.”

In game one Sunday, four Georgia Southern pitchers combined on a five-hit shutout for a 1-0 victory. The game began on Saturday and was halted due to rain in the bottom of the second inning.

In game two, the Eagles rallied back for a 4-3 victory. Georgia led 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning and were still up 3-2 in the seventh when Georgia Southern catcher Chase Griffin’s two-run single put the Eagles ahead for good.

The Bulldogs lost on a two-out two-run double in the first game. There was good news amid the bad in that contest. An elbow injury that chased ace right-hander Robert Tyler from proved to be non-structural and he is expected to be able to return this season.

5. It was an up-and-down weekend for Georgia’s other sports. The women’s basketball team finally busted its losing streak at eight games with a 52-45 win over Florida in Gainesville. The victory was the Lady Dogs’ 18th of the season, but they finish the regular season at 6-10 in the SEC. So if they’re to keep their NCAA tournament streak of 20 years intact, they’ll have to do some damage in the SEC Tournament. The 10th-seeded Bulldogs face No. 7 seed Missouri in Little Rock on Thursday.

Georgia’s No. 2-ranked women’s tennis team got SEC play off to a good start with wins over LSU and Texas A&M over the weekend. … The No. 2-ranked women’s track team had a somewhat disappointing showing at the SEC Indoor championships. Georgia scored several individual titles in the meet but finished sixth overall. The seventh-ranked men finished in eighth place. … Pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson threw a perfect game for the UGA softball team as it cruised to the championship in the Orlando Classic.

 


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