At this point in the season it’s pretty clear that, barring another improbable SEC Tournament run, the postseason isn’t in the future for this Georgia basketball team. They’re left to build for the future, get what wins they can, and maybe even play spoiler.
The spoiler role is exactly what fell into Georgia’s lap on Wednesday against Arkansas. Georgia was fed up with losing and looked for a fight. The Hogs were about as good of a matchup as Georgia could have asked for. Like the Dawgs, Arkansas is a guard-dominated team without a strong inside presence. They don’t rebound well, and they struggle on the road. We knew all that, but was Georgia in any kind of position to do anything about it?
Georgia’s start, and particularly the start of Robinson, showed that they were. Robinson and KCP hit from outside early, and Robinson’s shooting and driving soon opened things up inside. Nemi, Thornton, and Williams were able to be active inside as the Georgia perimeter game drew plenty of attention. Georgia’s offense was helped by their work on the other end – Arkansas’ struggles on offense meant that the Hogs couldn’t set up their press. That made it easier for Georgia to work the ball quickly up the court where they could set up in the halfcourt offense and attack Arkansas’ weaknesses.
Arkansas has had some bright moments this year with high-profile wins over teams like Michigan and Vanderbilt. Their road record is the glaring weakness now, and they missed out on what might be their best chance for a road conference win. Unfortunately for the Hogs, they don’t play the NCAA Tournament in Fayetteville. And Georgia is pretty much the definition of a “bad loss” right now.
This was Georgia at their best, and it was the blueprint for what Georgia would have to be almost every night for the team to have much success this year. The shots haven’t always fallen that way for the guards, and that’s led to some tough nights. Other teams like Ole Miss have had the inside presence to control the boards and turn Georgia into a stagnant jump-shooting team. The Dawgs won’t find many more matchups as favorable as they did Wednesday, but anything can happen if the guards are bringing it like that.
Georgia won’t have many chances left to play the spoiler; there are only three home games left on the schedule. A home date in a couple of weeks against Vanderbilt looks like the best shot. Georgia still needs three wins to match the 5–11 SEC record in Mark Fox’s first season in Athens. The Dawgs have a couple of winnable games against South Carolina remaining, and LSU could be a toss-up though it’s a road game.
Andy Landers’ squad is enjoying a bye week at the moment, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. This team is so banged up that substitution patterns are dictated by deciding who is less injured. Jasmine James and Krista Donald were the key injuries over the past few weeks. Just as James was ready to start working back in, Meredith Mitchell took a knee to the forehead and had to miss all but the first two minutes of the Alabama game. The plan had been to give James a few minutes of playing time to shake off the rust against Alabama, but Mitchell’s injury meant that James came right back off of her injury to play 32 minutes. She accepted the challenge and led the team with 18 points.
The Lady Dogs currently stand at 18-6, 7-4 in the SEC. They’re in 4th place, but a game either way could have them anywhere from 3rd to 8th place. As usual, there’s a pretty tightly-contested pack in the middle of the league. The good news is that Georgia has already run the Tennessee and Kentucky gauntlet. The not-so-good news is that four of the team’s final five games are against good teams fighting for position in that same pack of teams. It starts with a rematch against Vanderbilt this Sunday. Vandy has been hit or miss this year, but they used a blistering outside attack and a tough matchup zone to blow past Georgia in Nashville last month. Vandy is one of the hottest teams in the league at the moment and just knocked off Tennessee. Georgia should at least be as healthy coming off the bye week as they’ve been in over a month, and they’ll need every player during the last stretch.