Now that the holidays are over with, you’ll excuse Arkansas sophomore Moses Kingsley and his teammates if they are not in the giving mood as they head to Georgia on Tuesday.
It was just a year ago when head coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks led the Bulldogs late only to lose 66-61 in Athens while being out-rebounded by 22.
“We feel like we still have a bad taste, like coach just told us in the locker room right now,” Kingsley said. “We have a bad taste in our mouths about that because we were up almost the whole game and then when it came to finishing the game we didn't finish and we still have that bad taste in our mouths.
“So we're trying to go over there and take the game that we gave the,” Kingsley added. “It was a gift. Just like coach said, we gave them a gift last year so we're trying to get the gift back this year.”
Arkansas (11-2) and Georgia (9-3) - who split a pair of games last season with the Razorbacks winning 87-75 at home - will both come into the game with winning streaks with the Razorbacks have won five straight and the Bulldogs six.
“We have to go in there with a rebounding mindset,” Arkansas senior forward Alandise Harris said. “We've got the same team, Georgia's got the same team left. It's going to be an all-out war.”
Arkansas junior guard Michael Qualls believes this is a different Razorback team this season.
“Talent,” Qualls said. “We've just got a lot more guys, new pieces of the team that have got a lot of heart and are ready to fight on command. We just feel better about this team this year. Everything about it, the rebound, guarding people, everything.”
Qualls notes that his team has more of a sense of urgency this season than it did last season when the Georgia loss was his team's fifth straight road loss and came right after an 87-85 home overtime win over No. 13 Kentucky.
“Everybody hasd a sense of urgency,” Qualls said. “We fell twice and we said we're not going to fall anymore. So, coach, we've been getting after it in practice. Rebounding drills. Defensive drills. Coach says if you don't play defense, you're not going to play. Everybody wants to play.
“Those are the type of players we've got here, so you're going to be seeing a lot of defense,” Qualls added. “It's going to be great. We got out rebounded by 20 like Alandise said last year. We had the last possession shot, could have won the game, out-rebounded by 20. We're not getting out-rebounded any more, especially not by 20.”
Qualls - whose team had won four of its last seven true road game before losing to Iowa State and Clemson earlier this season - says he has no doubt his team is ready to hit the road.
“Yeah, yeah, we're ready,” Qualls said. “This whole Christmas break we've been getting after it, seeing each other's faces every day. Just working, working hard. We've put in enough work. We're ready.”
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson knows a big challenge awaits in Georgia, who downed Norfolk State 63-50 on Saturday after winning 50-46 at Kansas State earlier in the week.
"Georgia is a very physical basketball team," Anderson said. " I thought they took the fight to us in that particular game. We were leading in that game and I thought the second half, particularly, we hung around and we had the lead. But they out-rebounded us by 20 and we got the ball in our hand to win in regulation. That tells me we’ve got to shore up some things from a standpoint of rebounding, the physicality of the game, especially on the road.
"They’ve got some great guards," Anderson added. " They’ve got their whole team back. It’s a tremendous challenge, but it’s a great opportunity for us to open up SEC play at their place. We split with them last year, but Mark Fox is doing a great job. they went on the road and won at Kansas State. So it’s a team that’s playing well. they’re playing well. they play well at home.”
"It will give us a chance to see if we learned some lessons," Anderson added. "We had an opportunity to go out there three times this year. Came away disappointed in two of them. So now we get an opportunity to go out again and hopefully have a better showing. A much better showing."
Arkansas won three conference road games last season and will be looking to build off that and a tougher non-conference slate.
"This non-conference schedule, hopefully we’ve had some lessons that we’ve learned," Anderson said. "And that is the urgency that you’ve got to go out and play with on the road. Possessions become big. you’ve got to have fifth and sixth and seventh kind of efforts. Those kind of efforts, to have a chance to win on the road. And you’ve got to take care of the basketball. We didn’t take care of the basketball at Clemson and it ended up with us getting a loss.”
Michael Qualls had 20 points in Arkansas' 87-75 home win over Georgia last season.
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