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Undermanned Bulldogs step up against Razorbacks.


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By CHIP TOWERS

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 01/19/08

Athens They used to call Arkansas' pressure defense "40 minutes of ****." Nowadays it's more like "40 minutes of a minor annoyance."

Nevertheless, the Razorbacks under first-year coach and Rick Pitino protégé John Pelphrey used their press liberally. And Georgia handled it swimmingly on the way to a 82-69 victory.

With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 11-5 overall and 2-1 in the SEC. It also makes them 10-0 at Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia has a mid-week bye before facing No. 6 Tennessee on Saturday in Knoxville.

It was the second loss in a row for the Razorbacks (10-6, 1-2), whose other SEC defeat was at home against South Carolina.

After playing three Western Division teams in a row, it was Georgia's last against a West foe until the last three games of the season. Since league expansion in 1992, the Dogs are 56-43 against the West and 63-95 against the East. Now they'll play 10 straight within the division.

The Bulldogs were led by Billy Humphrey, who had 24 points. Jeremy Price and Sundiata Gaines added 14, and Terrance Woodbury had 12.

Georgia sprinted out to an 11-point lead fairly quickly in the second half and probably should have been ahead by more.

Price's lay-in at the 17:19 mark after an Arkansas turnover gave the Dogs a 43-33 advantage. The Hogs followed that with a missed lay-up and two more turnovers.

But only after that second miscue did Georgia convert on offense and then it was a single free throw by Woodbury to make the score 44-33 with 15:27 to play.

Georgia kept the margin at nine to 11 points for the next several minutes, except for a 12-second window when the Hogs got it down to seven. But that's when foul trouble began to mount for the visitors.

Patrick Beverly, who had been a defensive catalyst to that point, went to the bench with his fourth foul at the 11:29 mark. Over the next three-plus minutes, Charles Thomas and Darian Townes would also be whistled for their fourth fouls.

Not coincidentally, Georgia built a 16-point lead in the process.

Arkansas' press contributed to Georgia's eight first-half turnovers. More significantly it forced the undermanned Bulldogs, playing again with only nine scholarship players, to expend a lot of energy just getting the ball up the floor.

But none of that prevented the Bulldogs from opening a 34-27 lead by halftime.

It was a back-and-forth game from the tip, with the teams exchanging seven leads and five ties through the first 14:50. The Bulldogs finally forged a slight advantage after Woodbury followed a Billy Humphrey 3-point shot with a fast-break layup off a steal to put them ahead 26-22.

Arkansas had two more turnovers, three missed shots, a blocked shot and a missed free throw over the final four minutes of the half. That enabled Georgia, which converted three of its last four possessons, to build the seven-point margin.

Humphrey, who led the Dogs at that point with 10 points, missed a desperation heave from 30 feet as the halftime horn sounded.

Other numbers helping UGA's cause were its 20-16 rebounding advantage, Arkansas's 39 percent shooting percentage, the Hogs' 0-for-6 tally from 3-point range and Bliss' eight points and six rebounds.

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Georgia's basketball team may not win the SEC East, but based on the Bulldogs' play this week they may not be that bad, either.

Saturday's 82-69 domination of Arkansas Saturday night at Stegeman Coliseum was a fairly good indication of that.

"I think that was probably our best game of the year," senior Dave Bliss said. "I just thought we played a complete game."

The statistics bear Bliss out.

Georgia outshot the Razorbacks 50.9 to 48.2 percent, including 57.7 percent in the second half, while out-rebounding Arkansas 33-32.

Individually, Billy Humphrey led a quartet of Bulldogs in double-figures with 24 points, with freshman Jeremy Price and Sundiata Gaines chipping in with 14 each, followed by Terrance Woodbury with 12.

Humphrey's effort was the third time in five games that he's scored 22 or more points. The recent knee injury that's bothered him the past few weeks seems to be history.

"I'm playing at about 85 or 90 percent," Humphrey said. "I've just got to stay focused. I want to be out there so I can't let it slow me down even the littlest bit."

The win was the second straight for the Bulldogs (11-5, 2-1) after Wednesday's 61-54 victory over Alabama. Georgia's effort over the Razorbacks was considerably more impressive.

Arkansas (13-5, 2-2) was picked by the media to win the SEC West, but couldn't stand up to the defensive pressure of the Bulldogs, who scored their most points since an 83-70 win over Grambling State in the second game of the year.

"I felt the most that had to do with that was we really moved the ball well as a team," head coach Dennis Felton said. "We made extra plays and I thought that had the most to say with having a good offensive rhythm the rest of the game."

The Bulldogs are now 10-0 at home this year.

"I thought Georgia played outstanding," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "We struggled at times with the turnover bug (Arkansas committed 17 turnovers), and there were six or seven times when the ball just popped out of our hands. Georgia was better tonight. We have to regroup."

Foul trouble didn't help the Razorbacks' cause, either.

Pre-season All-SEC guard Patrick Beverley wasn't as much as factor as he might have been after picking up his fourth foul with 12:06 to play.

Beverly had 25 rebounds in his previous two games, but only had five for the Razorbacks who dropped their second-straight contest after being beaten Wednesday by South Carolina, 70-66.

Charles Thomas led Arkansas with 13 points.

Georgia jumped out to a 34-27 halftime lead, keyed by the play of Humphrey and Bliss who led the Bulldogs' first-half charge with 10 and eight points, respectively.

The Bulldogs closed the half with a 13-5 run, with Humphrey scoring seven of those points, including a 3-pointer that put Georgia in front to stay at 23-22 with 5:05 on the clock.

Humphrey finished with four 3-pointers on six attempts. As a team, Georgia was 6 of 13 from 3-point range.

"I'm shocked that we made only six 3s because it felt like a lot more," Felton said. "Of course, it was 6 out of 13, so we shot the ball well again. We got really, really quality looks all around."

Georgia hits the road next week, beginning with a game at Tennessee next Saturday, followed by a Jan. 30 contest at South Carolina.

Georgia's next home game is Feb. 2 against Kentucky.

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