Arkansas Back In AP Poll At No. 23

Arkansas (11-2) jumps back into the Associated Press poll at No. 23 as it heads to face Georgia (9-3) in Athens Tuesday night in a game that will be televised by ESPN.

Arkansas is back into the Associated Press poll at No. 23 just in time to hit the road once again.

The Razorbacks (11-2) – who have won five straight games - visit Georgia (9-3) – who is riding a six-game winning streak - Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN and is the SEC lid-lifter for both teams.

Arkansas made its first appearance in the AP poll in seven years earlier this season, spending two weeks in the rankings and rising to No. 18 before suffering back-to-back road losses at Iowa State and Clemson.

“Now we get into the SEC conference schedule and we all know the sense of urgency, the intensity really goes up some 10-to-12 notches,” Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. “Coaches are very familiar with all the teams and so I think it is going to be a great, great race and everyone is undefeated.

“So right now there Is no first place so it is kind of like on your mark, get set, ready, go,” Anderson added.

No. 1 Kentucky (13-0) is by and far the league favorite, but Georgia has a road win at Kansas State (50-46) and home wins over Seton Hall (65-47 and Colorado (64-57) on its resume so far.

The Bulldogs finished tied with Kentucky for second in league play last season at 12-6 and returned four starters from a team that 19-13 overall and was in the NIT.

Ironically despite the win streak, Georgia head coach Mark Fox doesn’t think his team is playing that great.

“I think we are just playing good enough to win,” Fox said. “I don’t think we are playing great. I really don’t. I think there are some things that we have to improve on. We have not rebounded well.

“We had a two-week break in between games and I don’t think we have really had a very good rhythm offensively since the break,” Fox added. “We have just found ways to win. We will have to play better as league play starts.”

Fox thinks Arkansas – who is 11-12 in SEC openers - is worthy of its ranking.

“There will be a challenge every night and we open up with a big one because Arkansas is just terrific, obviously experienced, beat Kentucky last year twice and in my opinion should have been an NCAA Tournament team a year ago,” Fox said.

“They return a lot of pieces and really just play I think at a very high level,” Fox added.

Georgia is led by 6-8, 230-pound senior forward Marcus Thornton (13.7, 7.2), 6-5 junior guard Charles Mann (12.7, 5.6), 6-3 junior guard Kenny Gaines (11.3) and 6-8, 230-pound senior forward Nemanja Djurisic (10.9, 5.4).

That group has started a combined 201 games in their time as Bulldogs.

““We are starting two juniors in the backcourt and two seniors up front,” Fox said. “I think experience has been a real advantage for us. Just because I don’t think we are playing great doesn’t mean I don’t think we are playing bad. I think experience has allowed us to find success.”

Sophomore 6-4 sophomore guard Juwan Parker (5.8) – a Tulsa native - is the fifth starter, but 5-10 sophomore guard J.J. Frazier (9.2) actually sees more time.

“J.J. has been a really good piece for us off the bench this season,” Fox said. “He is a sophomore who is just more comfortable playing. He can give us a lot of different things – handling the ball as a point guard, he has had double-figure rebound games this year and he is shooting the 3 well.

“He just kinds of gives us a spark off the bench and really is playing with a poise that allows that spark to be in a different area each night,” Fox added.

Anderson knows his team faces a tough challenge.

“We are looking forward to going against a Georgia team that is playing really well,” Anderson said. “We all know that Kentucky is one of the top teams in the country and they are playing well, but Georgia is (also) playing really good basketball.

“Mark has done a really good job,” Anderson added. “He brought back quite a few starters and they have picked up where they left off last year."

Arkansas was hammered 56-34 on the boards last season at Athens while losing a 66-61 overtime game to Georgia.

The Razorbacks whipped the Bulldogs 87-75 in the rematch at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas is leading the league in scoring, assists, steals, assist-to-turnover margin, 3-pointers made and is second in 3-point percentage.

The Razorbacks – out-rebounding foes by 6.6 per game (the best since 1977-78) - are also fifth in rebounds per game, just behind the fourth-place Bulldogs.

“I think their rebounding is the strength of their team,” Fox said. “I think that game last season probably was an anomaly and wasn’t the same situation when we went there.

“I think they are a good rebounding team,” Fox added. “I think they are a very complete team. Obviously they are shooting the ball extremely well, they rebounding it well, they have many more assists than turnovers. This is a team that forces turnovers.

“They are very complete and they are off to a great start and they are winning games because they are a very good and complete basketball team,” Fox added.

Moses Kingsley battles in last season's game at Georgia.

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