Guard The Yard

Arkansas (14-6, 4-3) looks to continue its momentum from a big road win as it prepares to face visiting Georgia (14-6, 3-4) in a Wednesday night battle that starts a stretch in which the Razorbacks have four of five games at home.

Now that Arkansas has proved it can go on the road and win with the SEC's Player of the Week and his trusty sidekick going off, it's time to once again guard the yard.

The Razorbacks (14-6, 4-3) – fresh off a 89-78 win at No. 19 Vanderbilt and 12-0 at Bud Walton Arena this season – will host Georgia (14-6, 3-4) Wednesday night at 8 p.m.

Arkansas actually has four of its next five games at home with Ole Miss, LSU and Florida A&M coming to Bud Walton Arena with only a trip to Mississippi State in the mix.

"We are all aware of where we are right now in the season heading into the last month here are so," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "It's just a big basketball game. They are all big, but this is a big game and it is a big game for Georgia as well.

"Hopefully we can get really prepared and I know they will be prepared," Pelphrey added. "Hopefully we will come and play with a sense of fearlessness. I think we are all anticipating an unbelievable atmosphere in Bud Walton Arena and that is always very inspiring to us."

Arkansas junior guard Rotnei Clarke was named the league's player of the week after torching Vanderbilt for 36 of his 52 points last week while his teammate Michael Sanchez was adding a career-high 20.

"It's a cool accomplishment, but obviously that doesn't happen without my teammates," Clarke said.

Clarke dismissed any of the message board and radio call in show speculation that Pelphrey may have lost the team in a 75-43 meltdown loss at Florida a week earlier.

"We have always felt confident," Clarke said. "We have definitely some tough road losses at Texas and Florida. We have tried to put those in the past. Those are always going to be there, but we have always had confidence in ourselves and confidence in our coaching staff.

"It's tough with some negative thoughts and comments that have been said (by fans), but we are just trying to unite, just band together and keep going," Clarke added. "We are not going to quit no matter how bad we get beat…We are going to continue to fight and we appreciate all the support we have had."

Pelphrey said his team is working hard to get better.

"I think we are doing the right things and it doesn't always show up, but I believe in what we are doing and our guys believe in what we are doing," Pelphrey said. "Last week we had a couple of really hard practices and very fortunately it paid off."

The Bulldogs were thought to be one of the contenders for the SEC Eastern Division title, but have lost three of its last five games and is actually in the division basement.

Georgia head coach Mark Fox, whose team is 4-2 on the road this season, believes his squad is facing a stiff challenge in playing in Bud Walton Arena.

"I think Arkansas has had a good year and is terrific at home," Fox said. "They obviously had a great road win and were able to win at Vandy, which is something we did not do. It is obviously a challenge to go to Fayetteville and play."

It is the Georgia coach's first game to coach in Bud Walton Arena.

"This is my first trip to Walton and obviously it has a reputation of its own going back to Barnhill," Fox said. "They have got terrific fan support and play well at home and always have."

He knows that the Bulldogs will need all hands on deck.

"The first thing we need is for everybody to play well," Fox said. "We are not a good enough team, a talented enough team where we can afford to have two or three guys not play well. We need our group to play well. That's the first thing.

"And like any coach will tell you it is going to be about our ability to get stops and rebound," Fox added.

Arkansas has out-rebounded its last two foes after struggling in that department.

"I think they have kind of cured that," Fox said.

Georgia is on a two-game losing streak with a double-overtime home loss to Florida and then a 66-60 loss to at Kentucky on Saturday.

"We have great respect for Georgia and how good they are," Pelphrey said. "They are a tremendous, tremendous team. I think what makes them this way is their frontcourt, their rebounding, their ability to compete in every basketball game because of how they take care of the basketball."

Trey Thompkins, Georgia's 6-10 junior power forward leads the way with 17.1 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.

"Thompkins is as good a frontcourt player as there is in the country," Pelphrey said. "His ability to score around the basket, his ability to step out and shoot the ball with range and he can also put it down and be a distributor."

He is joined by one of the league's best athletes in Travis Leslie (14.5, 7.1).

"Leslie at the small forward spot is as dynamic as anybody in the country with what he does," Pelphrey said.

Thompkins and Leslie combined to go 2-of-17 from the field at Kentucky.

"It's not the first time that one of them has had a tough night, but I think it is the first time that both of them have had tough days in the same game," Pelphrey said.

The rest of Georgia's starting line up – which is all juniors and seniors – is 6-8, 264-pound senior center Jeremy Price and the backcourt of 5-11 Dustin Ware and 6-1 junior Gerald Robinson.

"They have real good experience at the 1, 2 and 3s," Pelphrey said. "I really like their team. They are very well-coached and they have already had some great moments this season. Them coming in here to our building will be as big a challenge as we have had all year."


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