Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - The second-seeded and 21st-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks and third-seeded Georgia Bulldogs will battle for a trip to the SEC Tournament championship game on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
Arkansas was lucky to survive its postseason debut on Saturday as it missed 10 of its final 12 field goal tries to allow Tennessee to nearly overcome a 20- point halftime deficit. The Razorbacks got off to a hot start, sinking 51.6 percent of their field goal tries, including a 4-of-10 clip from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes of the contest, but it cooled off to go 6-of-20 from the floor with six misses on the same number of attempts from 3-point range after the break.
Bobby Portis had a solid showing for the Razorbacks, as he registered a double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Michael Qualls added 20 points for Arkansas. Alandise Harris also made an impact with 14 points, nine boards and four rejections. The Razorbacks' late-game offensive foes versus the Volunteers was somewhat surprising considering they were the top scoring team in the conference (79.0 ppg) on 45 percent efficiency from the floor during the regular season. Arkansas, which forces an average of 16.3 turnovers per outing, tallied only 11 points off of Tennessee's 13 miscues on Friday.
During the regular season, Portis led the league in field-goal percentage (.563), ranked second in scoring (17.8 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (8.7 rpg) en route to the SEC Player of the Year accolade. Qualls (15.3 ppg) was named to the All-SEC Second-Team. Senior point guard Rashad Madden has been a crucial part of Arkansas's success throughout the campaign with 10.0 points and 4.8 assists per outing.
Georgia won in a much more convincing fashion in its first game of the tourney on Friday. The Bulldogs outscored South Carolina, 23-15, at the free-throw line, and also 34-20 in the paint to claim a 74-62 decision over the Gamecocks, who were limited to 37 percent overall shooting. Coach Mark Fox's team showed off its depth as four different Bulldogs scored in double-figures.
Marcus Thornton paced Georgia on Friday with 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, while Yante Maten recorded the first double-double of his career with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Charles Mann tallied 12 points and four assists in the win.
Thornton (12.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg) has been a great two-way player for the Bulldogs, and his strong campaign rightfully landed him spots on both the All-SEC Second-Team and All-Defensive Team. Junior guard Kenny Gaines finished the regular season as Georgia's second-leading scorer at 11.7 ppg, but a sprained foot prevented him from suiting up against South Carolina. He is listed as day-to-day.
The Razorbacks won the only regular-season meeting between these schools, 79-75, in Athens on Jan. 6. The winner of this matchup will advance to the tournament championship game to face either Kentucky or Auburn.