Georgia basketball team must protect its court

semerson@macon.comJanuary 17, 2014 

Georgia Florida Basketball

Georgia guard Kenny Gaines (12) and the Bulldogs are 2-1 in the SEC entering their game Saturday against Arkansas.

PHIL SANDLIN — AP

ATHENS, Ga. -- It’s not that the members of the Georgia men’s basketball team are fine with the way they lost their most recent game. It’s that they have some perspective and realize the next week might be more important.

A win Tuesday at No. 7 Florida was a long shot, and indeed, the Bulldogs were blown out by 22 points. Judging by their sentiments a few days later, however, it didn’t crush anyone’s spirits.

“We are aware of what kind of team they are and how they played. We really got beat,” junior forward Nemanja Djurisic said. “We’ve got to accept that and move on.”

And there’s a decent chance of moving on productively the next two games, both at home, starting Saturday against Arkansas and then Wednesday against South Carolina.

Georgia’s season looked headed for a death march after going 6-6 in non-conference play. But if the Bulldogs can win the next two at home, they’ll find themselves at 4-1 in SEC play.

Arkansas (12-4, an RPI rank of 65) is building its NCAA tournament resume at home. It just knocked off Kentucky, took Florida to overtime before falling and has a win over Clemson.

But Arkansas away from its building hasn’t been worthy of any playoff bid. In fact, Arkansas has had only one game in a hostile environment, falling by 16 at Texas A&M. It had three neutral-site games, at the Maui Invitational and went 1-2, beating Minnesota while falling to California and Gonzaga.

Georgia (8-7) is 7-1 at home, including last week’s win over Alabama. If it has any chance of making a move in the SEC, it needs to win one of the next two and preferably both.

“There’s a lot of balance throughout our league, and protecting your home court is gonna be important,” head coach Mark Fox said.

Georgia appears to be closer to shrugging off the rout at Florida, rather than panic. The Gators (14-2) have one of the better teams in the country and will do that to a bunch of other teams.

Defense and rebounding were Fox’s emphasis entering SEC play, and success in those two areas was why Georgia started 2-0. Turnovers at Florida were the problem, specifically against the Gators’ press.

“I think the offense and everything is still there,” Djurisic said. “We regrouped, and we want to come back to the way we play. Against Florida that was really impossible because we had so many turnovers and were really unable to set our defense and all those types of things.”

Fox also felt other factors contributed to losing control of the game so quickly.

“Fourth road game out of five, third game in seven days -- we mentally kind of gave in,” Fox said. “We got a a little mentally weak and kind of gave in there for seven or eight minutes, and we’ve gotta be tougher than that. But we didn’t defend poorly; we didn’t rebound poorly. We didn’t do either one well, but we made some bad decisions at the back end of the press.”

Arkansas is also a pressing team, known for its “40 minutes of hell” approach. But Alabama presses a lot, too, and Georgia handled it well enough to win.

That was the theme from players Friday. The progress they made in the wins over Missouri and Alabama was not stemmed by the first SEC loss.

“It was Florida. We couldn’t be effective the way we can,” Djurisic said. “That whole environment. Florida played really good, and all the turnovers we had, we couldn’t be effective at all. I think that’s gonna come back, and we have a lot of games left, and we’re gonna try to take advantage of that.”

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