Georgia drops SEC opener to Arkansas

The Georgia Bulldogs’ six-game winning streak and their perfect home record officially came to an end after Michael Qualls sunk a pair of free throws to put his team up 79-75 with just 4 seconds remaining.  Just several plays earlier, it had seemed that Qualls had put his stamp on the game when he finished a breakaway with an emphatic dunk that gave Arkansas a 76-70 lead with only 27 ticks left.  But, a three-pointer from J.J. Frazier, followed up by a layup from Marcus Thornton after a botched inbounds play by Arkansas, and UGA was only down 2 points with a little less than 5 seconds on the clock.  For a brief moment, Georgia held slim glimmer of hope before Qualls, who finished with 17 points, sunk the two aforementioned free throws.

This loss will surely not sit well with this team or its fans.  The Dawgs played an incredibly controlled first half offensively, not letting the Arkansas pressure dictate their purpose.  Before the break, UGA had knocked down 6 of its season-high 9 three-pointers, taking a 44-37 advantage into the intermission.

In the second half though, Coach Mark Fox’s team started to unravel.  After building up a 57-49 advantage on a Neme Djuriisic tip-in with 13:12 remaining, UGA’s offense stalled, going nearly 8 minutes without a field goal until Yante Maten converted a layup on a break that helped reclaim the lead for his team at 64-63 with 5:52 left.

After shooting nearly 58% in the game’s first half, Georgia managed to hit only 34% of its field goals after the break.  The Dawgs’ ball security became a lot looser in the second half as well as UGA committed 11 of its 17 turnovers in the final 20 minutes.

Arkansas was led offensively by Bobby Portis, who scored 21 points and proved to be a very difficult matchup for the UGA bigs.

Georgia’s scoring was very balanced, with five players finishing in double-digits; Neme led all scorers with 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds.

After building up a lead that got as high as thirteen points in the first half, the Dawgs no doubt have to feel as though they let one slip through their fingertips.  At 0-1 in the conference, Georgia really has its work cut out for them with back-to-back road games coming up – LSU on Saturday night and Vandy next Wednesday.  If UGA cannot find a way to steal a game away from Athens, they could find themselves at 0-3 in the SEC when they take on Florida a week from Saturday.