Finishing Strong

Arkansas (20-8, 9-6) tries for a fifth straight win to close the regular season when it visits Georgia (15-13, 5-10) today at 1 p.m.

ATHENS, Ga. -- For weeks, many Arkansas basketball fans had pegged today's regular-season finale at Georgia as a must-win for the Razorbacks' NCAA Tournament security.

But now that the Hogs have won four games in a row to advance to 20-8 and 9-6 in Southeastern Conference play, this game presumably is more about NCAA Tournament seeding for them.

"We want to keep winning, because the 8-9 spot is not necessarily where you want to be (in the NCAA Tournament bracket)," Heath said. "That's always a tough game because it's two even teams, and even if you win, then you play a monster No. 1 seed in the second round."

A win over Georgia, plus more wins in the SEC Tournament this week in Nashville, Tenn., could possibly push Arkansas to, say, a No. 6 seed.

Georgia, meanwhile, aims to improve its 15-13 record and 5-10 SEC mark, with an eye to the NIT if not a Cinderella run through the SEC tourney.

Although the Bulldogs have lost five of their last six games, don't expect them to look downtrodden for the 1 p.m. tipoff in Stegeman Coliseum.

"We competed very well against Florida (in a 77-66 loss on Wednesday) and were right there with a chance to win at the end," said Georgia coach Dennis Felton. "We have improved a lot this season -- there's no doubt about it."

The Bulldogs lead the SEC in steals in league play with 9.5 per game -- which presents an intriguing question.

Can Georgia's quick guards steal the ball from the Razorbacks, who in the last three games have committed just 9, 10 and 8 turnovers against Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi State respectively?

"When you start getting single-digit turnovers, that's phenomenal," Heath said, "especially since we're doing it by committee at point guard."

Ronnie Brewer, who has a chance to win the SEC scoring title today, has had 19 assists and 10 turnovers in the past four games -- all wins -- since spending more time at point guard. He's still averaged 17.0 points in those games -- slightly under his 18.4 average.

"It's a good feeling," Brewer said. "We've got a lot of confidence, individually and as a team. I think some of the pressure is off us, but Georgia is just as tough as any of the past opponents. They're going to try to make it an up-and-down game."

Levi Stukes, a 6-2 junior guard, leads Georgia with a 12.0 average and is joined by four sophomores in the starting lineup. They are guards Sundiata Gaines (10.4) and Channing Toney (8.6), along with forward Younes Idrissi averages 6.3 and center Dave Bliss averages 4.6.

"They play really hard," said Hogs guard Eric Ferguson. "I saw them against South Carolina on TV, and it won't be easy. We've got to stay humble and be hungry."

Although Jonathon Modica scored 26 points and Brewer 23 in an 80-70 win over Mississippi State on Wednesday, Heath said, "I was disappointed that we didn't involve our inside guys enough. We can't rely on that (outside shooting) every game. When we're balanced, that's when we play at our best."

Darian Townes scored just four points and Steven Hill two points inside against Mississippi State. "They have to get the ball, get touches," Heath said.

Georgia has a 5-2 lead over Arkansas in Athens, including a 71-50 rout of the Hogs two years ago.

"We have to be smart," Heath said. "We want to rebound the ball, get a good running game going and get stops on defense."

An up-tempo game, while often risky on the road, could be another showcase for Brewer, who gets asked almost daily now about his pro plans.

"In time I'll figure all that stuff out and whenever I'm ready, I'll know what to do," he said.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories