Hogs Hope to Climb Out of SEC Basement

FAYETTEVILLE — The last time Arkansas played Georgia, the two teams were battling for a championship in the Southeastern Conference Tournament title game last March.

But something completely different will be at stake when they meet Sunday afternoon: Last place in the SEC standings.

Arkansas (13-13, 1-12) and Georgia (11-17, 2-11) will take part in an unenviable battle for the basement when they meet in Bud Walton Arena. Each team has experienced loads of frustration this winter, combining to go 3-23 in SEC games.

It's not exactly what Arkansas coach John Pelphrey anticipated when the season began.

"Obviously these circumstances are a little bit different," Pelphrey said Thursday. "The game is not being played for an SEC Tournament title, but I expect both teams to compete just as hard."

Arkansas, which opened the season 12-1, has now gone 1-12 in its last 13 games after an 88-67 loss at Alabama on Wednesday. But the latest defeat — the Razorbacks' eighth straight — might've been the most disappointing because it wasn't close.

Arkansas trailed by 26 points at halftime before falling behind by as many as 30 and didn't show much intensity or effort.

The loss assured Arkansas of sixth place in the SEC Western Division standings and an opening-round date with the third-best team from the SEC Eastern Division during the conference tournament in Tampa, Fla., next month. In addition, Arkansas now sits alone in last place in the SEC overall standings after the Georgia defeated Vanderbilt 61-57 on Wednesday in Athens, Ga.

But Arkansas guard Rotnei Clarke said the blowout loss to Alabama wasn't a sign that the Razorbacks have given up on the season. Instead, when asked what the team's motivation was now, he said it was simple.

"To get a win," Clarke said. "It's frustrating, but like I said the other night after the game, if we have a negative attitude about it, it'd just make it worse. You've got to go in realizing that we do have three more games left and have a positive attitude about it and try to finish out the season the best we can."

Point guard Courtney Fortson admitted that grows increasingly more difficult as the losses pile up, though. Especially for a team full of players that aren't used to losing games at a rapid rate.

"I never experienced this," Fortson said. "All my life. I've been a part of winning teams. But bad things happen for a reason, I guess.

"Hopefully, good will come out of this."

The best Arkansas can hope for now is avoiding a place alone in the SEC cellar, a position it hasn't been in often since entering the league in 1992. The only other time the Razorbacks finished last in the overall SEC standings was in 2004, when Arkansas went 4-12 in former coach Stan Heath's second season in Fayetteville.

Pelphrey, who is wondering how his team will respond after the Alabama struggles, is hopeful Arkansas will avoid that fate. He said there still are opportunities to finish the disappointing season on a strong note beginning with Sunday's game against the Bulldogs.

"My whole thing is, there's games to be played and we need to show up and play," Pelphrey said. "Winning two or three in a row would be fun. I would find enjoyment in that."

Sunday's Ticket

Georgia at Arkansas

WHEN: 3:05 p.m. TV: KHOG.

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville.

Records: Georgia Bulldogs, 11-17, 2-11 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas Razorbacks, 13-13, 1-12.

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290, FM 105.3.

Coaches: Georgia, Pete Herrmann (2-6, interim coach); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (36-25, second season at Arkansas; 116-91 overall in seven seasons).

Series: Arkansas leads 14-10 (6-2 in Fayetteville).

Last Meeting: Georgia won 66-57 in the finals of the SEC Tournament on March 16 in Atlanta. Georgia also won 82-69 at home on Jan. 19, 2008.

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