ATHENS, Ga. -- Whatever could have gone right for Georgia against Arkansas on Wednesday went right to near perfection in a surprising 81-59 win that could damage the Razorbacks’ hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“I feel like everybody was playing hard and we were defending,” said Georgia senior Gerald Robinson, who led the Bulldogs with a career-high 27 points. “I think we held them to a pretty good shooting percentage [26 percent] in the first half, so that’s the main thing. Everybody was defending -- all five people on the floor, helping each other out. I feel like that was a big team-building moment for us tonight.”
A Bulldogs team (11-12, 2-7 SEC) that has struggled offensively throughout the season scored 81 points, a season high for a regulation game, and won by their largest margin of the regular season. That included a scorching 53-percent shooting effort from the floor and 9-for-20 from 3-point range.
A team that has regularly been dominated inside outscored Arkansas (16-8, 4-5) 34-16 in the paint and out-rebounded the Razorbacks 44-21.
The Bulldogs had four players in double figures, led by Robinson, who was 10-for-13 from the floor and added six rebounds and five assists.
“He does a lot of things for us and we ask him to do probably more than is fair, but tonight he was really good,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said.
All three players had a hand in the Bulldogs’ 25-10 rebounding edge at halftime, which helped them build a lead of as many as 24 points in the opening half.
“Donte [Williams] was quick off the floor and Marcus Thornton had a really good ballgame,” Fox said. “I know he had an awful day yesterday. His knee was so sore that we almost just gave him a day off. He bounced back today and really had a nice ballgame and did a nice job on the boards. Certainly a lot of guys chipped in.”
Fox thought it might have been Georgia’s most complete effort of the season, and Caldwell-Pope added that no other game comes close. The Bulldogs were sound in every aspect against Arkansas after struggling for long stretches in many of their recent SEC games.
“This is our most complete game,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We didn’t give up the lead. We played defense really great.”
The Bulldogs have been in contention in nearly every conference game thus far, but typically faded late as more experienced opponents pulled away for victories. As much as anything, Robinson said the value in Wednesday’s win was that it proved to his younger teammates that they are capable of such a performance.
“I always had faith. It was just the timing when we were actually going to be able to do it,” Robinson said. “We’re tired of getting close. There’s no second place in this game -- you win or you lose.
“We just stayed preaching to them it’s a long year and there’s still a lot of basketball to be played and we can still do a lot of good things this year.”
Wednesday was certainly a good start.
"It's uplifting," Robinson said.