MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL ARKANSAS VS. GEORGIA:

Crean break: Georgia banks on new coach to lift program

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Georgia head coach Tom Crean celebrates a score against Auburn during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)
Georgia head coach Tom Crean celebrates a score against Auburn during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Tonight will be Tom Crean's 607th game as a college head basketball coach, but his first against the University of Arkansas.

Crean is the new coach at Georgia and is still getting familiar with the SEC after previous stops at Marquette and Indiana, but he and Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson know each other well from their Conference USA days.

Anderson's Alabama-Birmingham teams went 3-1 against Crean's Marquette teams, including an 83-76 victory in the 2003 Conference USA Tournament in Louisville, Ky., when the Golden Eagles were led by future NBA star Dwyane Wade and went to the Final Four.

"We've had some great ballgames," Anderson said. "One thing about Tom's teams, they're going to get up and down the floor and play an exciting brand of basketball. So it's not one of those teams that's going to hold the basketball. They're going to force your hand.

"It's a team that's going to come at you, and you've got to beat them. You can't sit back and play on your heels. So we've got to force tempo."

Georgia (10-9, 1-5 SEC) has struggled to win conference games, but the Bulldogs won 70-59 at Georgia Tech in the Yellow Jackets' next game after they beat Arkansas 69-65 in Walton Arena.

On Saturday at home, Georgia beat Texas 98-88 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Tyree Crump led the Bulldogs with 21 points, and Nicolas Claxton and Teshaun Hightower had 18 apiece. The Longhorns opened the season with a 73-71 overtime victory against Arkansas in El Paso, Texas.

"Our league is really good," Anderson said of Georgia's only SEC victory being over Vanderbilt 82-63. "It's a new team, it's a new coaching philosophy to put together. Most teams, this is the time of the year they start putting it together offensively and defensively.

"Defensively, I think we're putting it together, and now I'm really anxious to see us clicking on the offensive side of it, too."

The Razorbacks (11-8, 2-4 SEC) are coming off a 67-64 loss at Texas Tech, which is ranked No. 16 in this week's Associated Press poll. It was Arkansas' fifth loss in its past six games.

"We don't want to have that bad taste in our mouth, especially not at [home] again," Razorbacks sophomore guard Jalen Harris said of Arkansas' 1-2 SEC record in Walton Arena. "So we're going to come out at practice and get after each other and just keep fighting and keep our heads up.

"We know we can't hang our heads. It's a long season. We still have a lot of games to play, and we can get back in the hunt."

Crean said the Bulldogs need to build on what they've been doing as they get back into SEC play.

"It's not like we can look and say, 'Oh, wow, we're through the gauntlet,' " Crean said at his news conference after Georgia beat Texas. "Every night it is in this league. It really is.

"You know that coming in, even though I hadn't coached in this league. But because of the coaches, because of the way you look at the teams and the way they recruit, it's every night, right? So we've just got to really stay focused.

"Every game there's not only going to be the scouting report, there's not only going to be, 'OK this guy does this does, this guy does that.' There's three or four or sometimes five things that we've got to really make sure we're on, and that's what we've got to stay focused on, and at the same time keep getting our individual skills better."

Claxton, a 6-11 sophomore, has showed vastly improved skills this season after averaging 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds as a freshman.

As a starter this season, Claxton is averaging 12.9 points and leads the SEC at 9.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots per game. He also has more assists (42) than turnovers (36), which is rare for a big man.

"I think he's a very talented individual," Anderson said. "He's playing the point, bringing the ball up the floor for them. He can step out and shoot threes."

Arkansas won its last conference game 72-60 at home against Missouri on Wednesday night, and Anderson said he's confident that with 12 SEC games to play, the Razorbacks can get on a run.

"Oh, without a doubt," he said. "I've been more encouraged just from the last couple of games because of what I'm seeing. I've been seeing it in practice and now I'm seeing it in games.

"We're getting more guys coming off that bench and giving us really, really positive minutes. To me, the depth is starting to pick up for our basketball team."

Georgia lost 96-50 at No. 1 Tennessee to open SEC play, but since then the Bulldogs have been more competitive, including a 92-82 loss at No. 19 LSU.

"They're a really good team," Harris said. "The SEC is just tough this year. I know they've been in a bunch of close games just like we have. I know we can't look past anybody."

Georgia drew its third home sellout of the season for the Texas game.

"Tom has come in there, and I think he's given them an injection of enthusiasm," Anderson said. "They're playing a different way than they have in the past. So it should be a great ballgame."

Arkansas men vs. Georgia

WHEN 6 p.m.

WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville

RECORDS Arkansas 11-8, 2-4 SEC; Georgia 10-9, 1-5

SERIES Arkansas leads 22-15.

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

TELEVISION ESPNU

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS

GEORGIA

POS., NAME, HT., YR.;PPG;RPG

G Tyree Crump, 6-1, Jr.;10.4;2.1

G Turtle Jackson, 6-4, Sr.;5.3;1.1

F Nicolas Claxton, 6-11, So.;12.8;9.4

F Rayshaun Hammonds, 6-8, 13.2;6.4

F E'Torrion Wilridge, 6-6, Sr.;3.6;2.5

COACH Tom Crean (10-9 in first season at Georgia, 366-240 in 19 seasons overall)

ARKANSAS

POS., NAME, HT., YR.;PPG;RPG

G Jalen Harris, 6-2, So.;8.5;2.7

G Isaiah Joe, 6-5, Fr.;14.4;2.5

G Mason Jones, 6-5, So.;13.8;4.7

F Daniel Gafford, 6-11, So.;16.3;9.2

F Adrio Bailey, 6-6, Jr.;6.3;3.4

COACH Mike Anderson (162-94 in eight seasons at Arkansas, 362-192 in 17 seasons overall)

TEAM COMPARISON

Georgia;Arkansas

75.8;Points for;78.1

74.2;Points against;72.7

+5.0;Rebound margin;-1.3

-5.3;Turnover margin;+2.6

46.7;FG pct.;44.7

34.1;3-PT pct.;33.1

72.8;FT pct.;64.8

CHALK TALK After going 7 of 7 at Texas Tech, Razorbacks sophomore forward Daniel Gafford has increased his SEC-leading field goal shooting to 66.1 percent. ... Georgia 6-11 sophomore Nicolas Claxton is averaging 2.9 blocked shots to lead the SEC. ... Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson's Alabama-Birmingham teams went 3-1 against Georgia Coach Tom Crean's Marquette teams in Conference USA matchups. ... Georgia junior guard Jordan Harris, who has 17 starts this season and is averaging 4.8 points, is expected to miss his second consecutive game because of a concussion he suffered against LSU. ... Bulldogs freshman guard Tye Fagan, who is averaging 3.6 points in 18 games off the bench, is questionable because of an Achilles injury. ... Arkansas is 10-3 against Georgia in Fayetteville and has won five of the teams' past six meetings, including an 80-77 victory in double overtime last season in Athens, Ga.

Sports on 01/29/2019

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