No coach would want to do to his players what Georgia's Dennis Felton had to before this season, but he didn't hesitate.
Felton booted the top two returning scorers from the Bulldogs' team last season off the team because of team rules violations. Takais Brown, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, was gone before the season began. And Mike Mercer, a 6-4 junior guard, was dismissed on Nov. 19 and has since joined Stan Heath at South Florida.
Despite their absences, Felton's Bulldogs continue to improve. Georgia (10-5, 1-1) upped its home record to 9-0 with a 61-54 victory over Alabama on Wednesday night. Felton credits Georgia's ability to move forward from the departures to an attitude of focusing on the players who are in Athens, Ga., not on the ones who aren't.
"It's not about the people who weren't willing to do the simple things that are required to enjoy the honor of being a Bulldog," Felton said Thursday morning on the SEC basketball coaches teleconference.
"It's about the people who are here."
The whole situation has been refreshing for Arkansas coach John Pelphrey to see.
"It shows that not any one guy is bigger than the team, that they can have success without those guys and still do things the right way," Pelphrey said.
A reporter asked Pelphrey on the teleconference for his opinion on what area Arkansas needed to work on first and foremost. Making light of the Razorbacks' recent play, Pelphrey said, "We don't have that much time right now."
Finally, Arkansas' first-year coach went into detail, chronicling the most glaring weakness he notices these days. He just doesn't see enough consistency, a frustrating fact considering he has a roster with a half dozen seniors.
"We have to act like we have six seniors of experience on a day-to-day basis," Pelphrey said. "We have to handle the smallest amounts of success. And we need to be consistent in doing the ordinary things over and over.
That's mental toughness. And I'm not talking about getting 30 (points) or hitting all your 3-point shots. I'm just talking about doing the fundamental things over and over."
Those Razorback fans who trek down to Georgia for Saturday night's contest will likely encounter an atmosphere far different from the one Arkansas saw two years ago in Athens. In their 2005-06 regular-season finale, the Razorbacks won at Georgia by 17 points in front of a generously listed crowd of 6,170.
But Saturday night, the Bulldogs could sell out Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs drew about 8,000 fans for their Wednesday night win and a capacity crowd for their early January victory over Georgia Tech.
"Stegeman Coliseum is a real special place as far as atmosphere," Felton said of the 10,523-seat arena. "It's a really intimate setting, and the crowd really does impact the game."
Arkansas at Georgia
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