Arkansas 80, Georgia 67

Arkansas (22-8) extends its winning streak to six games as four players score over 14 points in an SEC Tournament opening round win over Georgia.

NASHVILLE, TENN. - For the second time in five days, the Razorbacks put the Dogs down for a rest - this time doing so while continuing one streak and ending another.

Jonathon  Modica poured in 20 points and Ronnie Brewer added 18 points and 5 assists as the University of Arkansas hammered Georgia 80-67 Thursday night in an opening round SEC Tournament game played before 13,926 fans at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

"I think we came to play tonight and did so with an agression that has been a trademark in this stretch where we have been winning," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "Basically we came here and took care of business."

Eric  Ferguson added 16 points and a season-high 7 rebounds and Charles Thomas 14 points and 6 boards for the Razorbacks (22-8), who extended their current winning streak to six with the victory.

It also ended Arkansas' league tournament futility of not winning a game in the event since reaching the semifinals in 2001 - a year after winning four games in as many day to win its only SEC Tournament title.

"Little bit of a monkey off my back," said Heath, whose first three teams had been one and done in the event. "I think the same thing for our team. We haven't really shown well when we have been here and we wanted it not just for the reason to get one, but we wanted to be here awhile not only for us, but our fans."

Arkansas advances on to play Florida (24-6), who had a first-round bye, in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals Friday night at around 8:45 p.m.

The game will be a rematch of the contest that started the winning streak for the Razorbacks, who edged the Gators 85-81 in overtime in Fayetteville back on Feb. 18.

"I bet they are going to have a lot more intensity knowing that we beat them at home and they've got something to prove," Brewer said. "But at the same time we still have a lot to prove to a lot of people who are still not respecting our team.

"We feel that we're developing as a team and we're getting better and a lot of people should fear us as a team," Brewer added. "So they might want some revenge, but we've got something to prove. We're not going to back down at all."

Modica came with the same sentiments.

"First of all, my teammates don't fear any team," Modica said. "We definitely respect the team and the coaching staff they have. We know it's going to be a hard-fought game. We've got to come with a better game than we did tonight. That's what we look forward to doing."

Arkansas, which had drubbed Georgia 74-57 in Athens just last Sunday, did the Bulldogs in for a second straight game in the same manner - roaring out of the locker room after intermission.

The Razorbacks turned a 40-35 halftime lead into a 52-38 margin when Ferguson knocked down a 12-footer with 17:20 left in the game.

They pushed that margin to 64-43 on Ferguson's 3-pointer with just over 12 minutes left meaning that the Razorbacks outscored the Bulldogs 24-8 to start the second half.

"Georgia is a very aggressive team, and we had to be careful not to get out of our rhythm," Heath said. "At halftime I encouraged our guys to have more patience if the transition wasn't there. But our defense really picked up in the second half and created some offense for us."

Ferguson had 10 of those points in that stretch.

"Ferguson was the key to that equation," Heath said. "Brewer and Modica have been scoring consistently well for us, but Eric has really come on late in the season."

Arkansas matched that lead later when Brewer drilled home a 3-pointer to make it 75-54 with as 6:12 remained.

"I thought our second half was huge," Heath said. "Just the way we came out of the locker room and got a lead, extended the lead and I thought held on to it pretty well."

It was the 13th conseutive game that Modica has scored in double figures and his eight game of 20 or more points.

Brewer kept his conference lead in scoring with his offensive output.

"Me and Ronnie are all about team," Modica said. "It's not how many points we score, but about our team having success."

Redshirt sophomore Vincent Hunter had 7 rebounds in his 15 minutes off the bench to tie Ferguson for team-high honors while Darian Townes added 7 points for Arkansas.

Like the previous game, Thursday night'c contest included a few elbows and takedowns.

"There are some tough guys on this team," Heath said. "They're definitely getting there as far as physical play. It's bothered me that we haven't had that persona, but our inside guys are maturing. Rebounding is a toughness trademark." Brewer agreed that his team has proven its toughness lately.

"It shows our maturity because earlier in the year people were saying that we weren't a tough team," Brewer said. "I think throughout the season and especially toward the end we just dug deep inside of ourselves and just got this fight inside of us. If you are going to throw a punch, we are going to throw a punch right back. I think we have been fighting down the stretch and it has worked out for us."

Mercer had 16 off the bench to lead Georgia (15-15) while Younes Idrissi had 14 points and 7 rebounds and Channing Toney 10 points - all in the first half.

Idrissi and Rashaad Singleton both had five blocks each for the Bulldogs, who ended their season on a four-game losing streak.

The Razorbacks shot 45 percent from the field, 76 percent from the line, hit 6 3-pointers, outrebounded their foe 38-36 and forced 22 turnovers.

Arkansas' win was the only one by a Western Division team on a tournament's first day when all four higher seeded teams won.

In other first-round matchups, South Carolina ousted Mississippi State 59-44, Kentucky downed Ole Miss 71-57 and Vanderbilt downed Auburn 76-71.

In games Friday, Tennessee and South Carolina will meet at noon, Kentucky and Alabama battle at 2:15 and league champ LSU takes on Vandy at 6:30 before the Arkansas-Florida contest finishes up the second day.

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