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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari stressed again Wednesday that his team was not the only one scrambling to make the NCAA field.
“A lot of teams have F’s. But again, we’re playing on the road. It’s a hard game to win. But what I’m worried about is just us being the best version of ourselves,” Calipari said. “We weren’t at Arkansas. We weren’t. They wanted it more. They played more physical. They came at us and we kind of backed away. You’ve got to go out an ball, got to go out and compete, got to go out and battle. If we do that, we’ll be fine. I don’t know if that means we’ll win, but I know my team will be fine. It’s what we’ve talked about, what we’ve been trying to stress.
“It’s another tough game. They’re good at home. They’re 8-8 in our league. They’re good at home. They play well in that building. We’re going to have to play a good basketball game to have a chance to win.”
Georgia is not a potent offensive team. The Bulldogs have just one player — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — averaging in double figures and are only averaging 60 points per game thanks to a SEC-best 78 points in Saturday’s win over Tennessee. Georgia had not scored 78 points or more in a SEC game since mid-February, 2012, and is the only SEC team with just one player averaging 10 or more points per game.
However, Georgia swept Tennessee — the Vols beat Kentucky by 30 points in Knoxville — and lost only 62-60 at Arkansas (UK lost by 13 points).
Freshman guard Charles Mann and Caldwell-Pope each scored in double figures in the recent win over Tennessee. Caldwell-Pope led Georgia (14-15, 8-8) with 25 points and nine rebounds. Mann tied a career-high with 18 points.
“One of the struggles for our team has been finding a consistent second gun,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Kentavious has dealt with that, but it makes it hard because teams know he is such a big part of what we do. Defenses are geared to stop him.”
Nemi Djurisic was the fifth-leading scorer on last season’s Georgia team at 7.0 points per game. This year he’s raised his average to 7.8 per game and is now the No. 2 scorer on the this year’s team.
Calipari said he didn’t know “yet” who would guard Caldwell-Pope.
“He’s good, though. He’s a good player,” Calipari said.
Georgia has only 25 all-time wins over Kentucky, but eight have come in the last 11 years and Calipari expects the Bulldogs to be “aggressive” tonight.
“They may not spread the court like Arkansas, but they’re still going to be aggressive and physical and they’re going to pressure us when they have the opportunity to. Mark’s done a great job. I called him earlier in the year, and I just thought the job he’s doing with his team to get them to be in a position to win games, which is what he’s done, phenomenal job,” Calipari said. “We got our work cut out for us.
“But, look, we’re a good team. Let’s go do what we do. Let’s go on the road. It’s going to be a tough environment. Where do we want the season to go? Well, fight like heck. Fight. Battle. None of the other stuff’s going to work. The only thing that’s going to work is you go in and want this thing badly. We can’t control how Georgia’s going to play. Arkansas did not play that well. And really it wasn’t running offense or schemes on defense. It was just, 20 offensive rebounds, 19 turnovers, and it wasn’t against the press. It was right there when we started driving or in the half court or that kind of stuff. We’re better than that. I know the team’s better than that. Now we’re just going to have to go prove it on the court.”