Georgia forward Rayshaun Hammonds (20) drives towards the goal. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated SMU in double overtime with a final score of 87-85 on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Ryan Cameron rcameron@randb.com)

The Georgia men’s basketball team will play its fourth game in the past 11 days when it hosts Tennessee at home on Jan. 15. As the Bulldogs’ season goes on, it evolves from only two games per month — as it was in October — to a more intense, demanding schedule of conference play. 

Head coach Tom Crean likened this time of year to the 1993 film “Groundhog Day.”

“The days run together for players, especially young players,” Crean said. “It becomes groundhog day. … That’s reality when you get into December, but especially January and February.”

The Bulldogs will play only SEC matchups for the remainder of the season, but they are off to a slow start with an 0-2 record in the conference. 

The Bulldogs were No. 13 in the SEC at the end of the 2018-19 season. Currently, they sit at No. 10 in the conference. Georgia is ranked only above other winless teams in the SEC including Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and South Carolina. 

The next stretch of its schedule is not going to get much easier for Georgia as it continues to take on in-conference rivals. For Tom Crean and his Bulldogs, the key is to focus on the task at hand — beginning with Tennessee.

“The most important thing that we can do is not look at the stretch,” Crean said. “We [have] got to focus on the day that’s here, and the game that’s in front of us, constantly.” 

Strong defense and rebounding have been points of emphasis for Georgia so far this season and will be important factors against the Volunteers. The Bulldogs were out-rebounded in both conference games they played before Wednesday. Kentucky and Auburn each earned a total of 41 rebounds while Georgia only claimed 35 and 33 during each game, respectively. 

Georgia also committed more turnovers in both games. It had 14 in each game while both Kentucky and Auburn only committed 12. Freshman Toumani Camara said that in addition to defense and rebounding, turnovers will also be a vital part of Wednesday’s game and that the Bulldogs “need to take care of the ball way better.”

Junior and veteran team member Rayshaun Hammonds said that Georgia’s 82-60 loss to Auburn on Jan. 11 was a learning experience for the young Georgia team. For nine freshmen players, it was only the second in-conference game of their lives and one of their first couple of chances to experience the grit of the SEC.

“We all know how physical it is in the SEC, you know, with any team,” Hammonds said. “Everybody likes to play physical. That’s the main thing the SEC is known for is being physical.” 

Rebounding, solid defense, limiting turnovers and physicality will be the determining factors in Georgia’s third SEC game on Wednesday night as they look to raise their conference record to 1-2 and prevent slipping further down in the conference standings. 

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