NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Some leftover nuggets of information from my after-midnight interactions with the Georgia Bulldogs last night at Bridgestone Arena. In case you missed it, freshman Yante Maten came off the bench to record a double-double and help the Bulldogs secure a 74-62 win over South Carolina in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
Third-seeded Georgia (21-10) will now face No. 2 Arkansas (25-7) in the semifinals this afternoon around 3:30 or 4 p.m. ET. Their game will follow No. 1 Kentucky (32-0) vs. 13th-seeded Auburn (15-19), which tips off at 1 p.m.
Now for those nuggets:
GAINES PLANS TO ‘TOUGH IT OUT’
Kenny Gaines insists he’s going to play in today’s game but coach Mark Fox is not so sure. The junior shooting guard was questionable all the way up to tip time Friday night due to a sprained foot that kept him out of the regular-season finale against Auburn and out of practice all week.
The Bulldogs made the decision to start Gaines after pregame warmups and he played 27 minutes and finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. However, he aggravated the injury when his foot got stepped on and he left the game with 8:49 to play, only to return a short time later.
“We’ll have to see how he feels (Saturday),” Fox said 30 minutes after the game. “I was really proud how he played having not practiced. We asked him in pregame warmup, ‘do you feel like you can go?’ And he wanted to go. But obviously he was limping so much in the second half and the guy stepped on him. So we’ll just have to get to the game before we make that decision.”
Perhaps he was still running on adrenalin from the excitement of the quarterfinal victory, but Gaines indicated there wasn’t going to be a question about it.
“Yeah, definitely,” Gaines said. “I’d say I’m at 55 or 60 percent. But the plan is definitely to tough it out. I’ve just got to get through it.”
The injury does impact Gaines’ effectiveness, however.
“It’s kind of hard to defend, to push off and to slide and rebound,” he said. “It kind of hurts on the offensive end, too, because I can’t really drive the ball as much. I kind of had to settle for a couple of shots. I knocked them down, but it’s hard to be real active on both ends.”
Gaines was 3-for-5 from the field, all 3-pointers.
MANN GOES DOWN, TOO
The seemingly indestructible Charles Mann also went down in the game. Earlier in the contest, Mann came up holding his left knee after landing hard on it after getting fouled on a drive to the basket. As per usual, he played through it.
But at the 9:25 mark of the second half, Mann went down clutching the knee near midcourt and the Georgia bench. He was attended to by trainers and left the game briefly only to return and finish the contest.
“I’m fine,” Mann said in the Bulldogs’ postgame locker room. “I had a play where I landed it and this was another thing where I just didn’t feel right on it. But I’m fine.”
As for having at least one other game to play this weekend, possibly two, Mann says Georgia will be up for it.
“We should be ready to play,” he said. “We’re all fine structurally and we’ll play.”
PARKER REMAINS QUESTIONABLE
On player who didn’t play was Juwan Parker. The junior small forward played 15 minutes on his troublesome Achilles tendon in the season finale but was unable to recover from the postgame soreness that resulted and didn’t play at all against South Carolina.
Georgia says it will be another game-time decision on Parker on Saturday.
“We have a tough, resilient bunch and I think we’ll be OK at the end of the day,” senior captain Marcus Thornton said. “We know how to regroup and fight through it. That’s what we do.”
It seems like ancient history now but Georgia did actually play Arkansas this season and actually played them very well. In fact, the Bulldogs led by 13 in the first half, by seven at halftime and by eight in the second half before getting overtaken at the end for a 79-75 loss.
The game was played in Athens and was both team’s SEC opener. Georgia lost small forward Kenny Paul Geno to a broken wrist in the contest. Nemi Djurisic led five Bulldogs in double figures with 16 points and they out-rebounded the Hogs 40-25. But UGA was undone by 17 turnovers against Arkansas’ high-intensity press. The Razorbacks scored 17 points off those turnovers and had no answer for 6-10 forward Bobby Portis, who finished with 21 points.
“They’re a great, great team,” said guard J.J. Frazier, who came off the bench to score 10 in that contest. “Obviously they have great players on their team, like Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls is also a great player. We have our work cut out for us. … But I think we can do it. I know we can do. We’re a mature team and we’ve been battle-tested.”