FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson didn’t get much sleep after his team’s 71-67 overtime win against Kentucky.
The Razorbacks didn’t arrive back in Northwest Arkansas until midnight. It took a little while to get home, too, after a small group of fans were waiting at the airport to congratulate Arkansas on the win. So Anderson estimated he squeezed in three hours of sleep before waking up and turning his thoughts to the next assignment.
“My mind is on Georgia,” Anderson said Friday afternoon.
He’s hoping that’s the case with the rest of the Razorbacks. Arkansas (19-9, 8-7 in Southeastern Conference) enjoyed its big win against the Wildcats, but has to move on quickly with another test looming in Bud Walton Arena today.
Georgia (16-11, 10-5 in SEC), one of the conferences biggest surprises this season, will try to dampen Arkansas’ mood and sweep the season series against the Razorbacks at 3 p.m. Arkansas didn’t have much time to regroup and prepare, either, with tip-off coming 42 hours after the Kentucky game ended.
So Anderson said being ready is a “challenge” for his staff and team.
“It shouldn’t take much for Georgia to get your attention. Why? Because they’ve been playing well,” Anderson said. “I think they’re in third place right now. They beat us and you don’t want to have the hangover effect. … Of course, you know the guys are feeling good about themselves, but it’s a quick, quick turnaround. Very quick turnaround. So we’ve got to muster up some kind of energy so we can go out and play against a rested-up Georgia team that played on Tuesday.”
Georgia solidified its grip on third place in the conference standings by beating Missouri 71-56 in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday night. It was another case of the Bulldogs, who struggled in nonconference play and haven’t received any NCAA Tournament consideration despite its success in SEC play, being a thorn in the side to SEC foes.
Georgia coach Mark Fox said there will be time to lobby for his team’s NCAA Tournament. For now, his only concern is seeing his team continue to grow.
“We’ve just matured,” Fox said of Georgia’s SEC success after a 6-6 mark in nonconference games. “We lost a great player in Kentavious (Caldwell-Pope). So out of the gate, we didn’t know how to score, how to rebound. We lost our leader. We lost not just the best player on our team, we lost the best player in the league. So out of the gate we weren’t very good. We’ve just matured.”
Like Arkansas, Georgia has won six of its past seven games.
“Georgia’s a good basketball team,” Anderson said. “They’re playing for the same thing we’re playing for, and that’s to get wins and get seeding in the (SEC) Tournament and hopefully have the opportunity to advance to the NCAA Tournament.”
Anderson said Arkansas must do a better job on the boards against the Bulldogs, who bullied the Razorbacks in the first meeting. Arkansas was outrebounded 56-34 in the overtime loss, which was part of the Razorbacks’ 2-6 start in SEC play.
Arkansas was beaten on the boards at Kentucky on Thursday night as well, but Anderson credited his team for being much more physical in the paint. It led to Arkansas’ first win in Rupp Arena since 1994.
Georgia players watched Arkansas win and were impressed. Fox said the Razorbacks are playing “super” and said his team must match it today.
The Bulldogs have had more time to prepare after its win Tuesday. Anderson shrugged off the discrepancy saying it’s simply “how the schedule shakes out.”
He wants to make sure Arkansas isn’t still reveling in its Kentucky accomplishment.
“It was a good win against an outstanding Kentucky team,” Anderson said. “Maybe we caught them on the right night. But I thought our effort, our energy, I thought our poise, I thought it was huge. And you do it on the national stage, obviously, you get some people to take notice. But more importantly, our focus is getting ready for this next game. We’ve got a three-game conference schedule right now. The focus right now is getting prepared for a Georgia team that we faced early.”