Hoop Dawgs prepare for Gators

ATHENS, Ga. - Given only one day to focus on tonight's home game against No. 4 Florida, Georgia coach Jim Harrick needed his players to concentrate on the Gators Monday.

Instead, the Tony Cole controversy took precedence.

Harrick Jr. has been suspended without pay and was not on the bench for Georgia's 74-66 home loss to No. 2 Kentucky Sunday.

Georgia (17-8 overall, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) can finish no higher than its current third-place standing in the Eastern Division. So for its last two regular-season games - Tuesday on ESPN against Florida and next Sunday at South Carolina - Georgia can do more to improve its NCAA tournament seeding than its position in the SEC tournament field.

"You win here (against Florida), it might help you seed-wise,'' Harrick said Monday.

Florida took a last-second, 66-63 home victory over  the Bulldogs on Jan. 11 when freshman guard Anthony Roberson nailed a buzzer-beating 3-point shot. Since that game, Florida (24-4 overall, 12-2 SEC) has climbed from No. 11 to No. 4 in The Associated Press poll and, if not for Kentucky's 18-game winning streak, would be receiving more attention as the power of the SEC. Even so, Georgia's close call at Florida gave players reason for hope in Tuesday's game.

"I think we match up great,'' senior Ezra Williams said Sunday. "I think we have a great chance with them coming in here.''

Added Jarvis Hayes: "It's going to be tough, but we're ready. We've got to come out on the court feeling pretty good about playing here.''

Georgia was undefeated at Stegeman Coliseum this season before the loss to Kentucky. Despite the distraction of the Cole controversy, Harrick had no complaints about his team's focus or effort against Kentucky.

"I really liked our effort,'' Harrick said Monday. "That effort will beat a lot of people.'' Harrick admitted it may be difficult for Georgia to match that effort level again so soon. "The schedule didn't do us much of a favor, but that's part of it,'' Harrick said.

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