ATHENS, Ga. ----- Coming off the high of Saturday's monumental victory at Florida, it was no surprise that Georgia suffered a slight case of the blahs against Arkansas Wednesday night.
Georgia made only 3 of 17 3-pointers. It had an off night from its top scorer, Ezra Williams. It struggled through several listless periods.
Even so, Georgia still coasted past Arkansas, 81-67, drawing the following conclusion from Jarvis Hayes: "Georgia is a very good basketball team,'' Hayes said. "People are starting to find that out.''
Thanks to its effective if relatively uninspired victory over Arkansas, Georgia claimed sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.
Georgia (16-3 overall, 5-1 SEC) is one-half game ahead of Florida, which was off Wednesday night and will visit Arkansas Saturday. Georgia plays at Vanderbilt Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.
Playing before a Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 10,323 — Georgia's third straight home sellout — the Bulldogs delivered the knockout blow with a 14-0 run early in the second half. Jarvis Hayes scored nine points in the run and finished with a game-high 21 points.
Ezra Williams scored only 12 points, six below his average, on 3-for-14 shooting.
Coming off the huge upset of then-No. 2 Florida, Georgia won despite its poor 3-point shooting and occasional lapses into periods of flat play.
"That certainly wasn't a classic game, but anytime you come off a game like we played at Florida, I expect it to be a little raggedy,'' said Coach Jim Harrick.
For the first time, Arkansas (10-8 overall, 2-4 in the conference) has lost four straight SEC games.
Instead of its traditional relentless pressure, Arkansas instead opened in a less aggressive mode that revealed Coach Nolan Richardson has not yet achieved his trademark style of play. The Razorbacks' top guard, Brandon Dean, was limited to eight points in 21 minutes as he returned from a sprained knee.
"That's not the Arkansas team you will see in the Southeastern Conference tournament, I promise you that,'' Harrick said. "... (Richardson) will get them straightened out, I promise you. That bad boy can coach.''
Arkansas was led by Jannero Pargo's 18 points, but T.J. Cleveland (10 points) was the only other Razorback in double figures.
Georgia held a 48-38 advantage in rebounds. Chris Daniels followed Hayes with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Hayes added 10 rebounds for another double-double.
Arkansas' only lead came at 7-6.
Armed with a 34-24 halftime advantage, Georgia suffered through five sluggish minutes to open the second half. But after Arkansas closed to within five points at 38-33, Georgia took command with 14 unanswered points that pushed the lead to 52-33.
"You've got to give Georgia credit,'' Richardson said. "They played hard. They played aggressive defense.''
As he has done so often this season, Hayes took the lead role in the big run, scoring the first seven points before Fred Gibson followed with a fancy scoop for a lay-in.
Georgia kept the lead in double figures, providing Harrick a rare opportunity to give freshman Mike Dean valuable experience running the offense while starting point guard Rashad Wright enjoyed a light workload.
Dean played 17 minutes and scored nine points with three assists — all season highs for the Rome, Ga., native.
In the matchup of freshman players contributing in both football and basketball, Gibson outplayed Arkansas' Michael Jones, who also plays quarterback.
Jones missed three straight free throws on two trips to the foul line. His first attempt was an air ball, dipping under the net. Much to the delight of the Georgia student section, the 6-foot-9 Jones hurled his second free throw against the backboard so hard that it also did not touch the rim.
Gibson, meanwhile, continued to gain confidence. After scoring 13 points at Florida, Gibson scored seven points while playing 15 minutes.