Alabama at Georgia
When: 5 p.m. CT Saturday
Where: Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
Records: Alabama (12-10, 4-5 SEC), Georgia (12-10, 2-7 SEC)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 5.3 FM
The University of Georgia is the school with a dog for a mascot. But on Saturday, the UA basketball team will be using the dog as a mantra.
The Crimson Tide will face the Bulldogs in a critical game for two teams seeking to keep the embers of their postseason hopes glowing with Alabama’s players saying that “dog mentality” will be the key to stopping a three-game SEC losing skid.
“Dog mentality is what we go by a lot,” said freshman guard Jaden Shackelford, who has been Alabama’s leading scorer (20.3 ppg) as opposing defenses have focused on teammates Kira Lewis and John Petty. “That’s the mentality when you play harder than everyone else. Sometimes lately we’ve taken our foot of the gas but we have learned from the last three games.”
“I like playing on the road,” said freshman center Javian Davis. “I mean, I love playing at home but I feel like on the road, it brings more of the dog out of me. I just want to be aggressive for my team and show the other fans that I’m a good player at a high level.
“Other than that, we’ve got to stay positive. You look at the negatives first and try to correct them but we have had some positives, too.”
Alabama took the day off after Tuesday’s loss to Tennessee but followed that with what were two of the longest and most intense practices of the season Thursday and Friday.
“The guys had a chance to regroup (on Wednesday) and I thought we had one of our best practices of the year on Thursday,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “Our margin for error is so thin with Herb (Jones) out (with a fractured wrist). “Every little mistake gets magnified. So we went over a lot of things.”
Jones’ absence may be particularly noticeable as Alabama attempts to slow Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards, a projected NBA lottery pick who is the SEC’s No. 2 scorer at 19.9 points per game.
“As big a challenge as he presents to everybody he plays, he probably even presents a bigger challenge for us just with the way our roster is right now,” Oats said.
“We don’t have a real matchup for him. (James) Rojas and Juwan (Gary, both out with season-ending knee injuries) are those long, athletic, big, strong wings. We don’t have them. Herb’s our one that we had left on the roster. He’s out. So, we’ve either got 6-5, 190 — whatever John Petty is on a day-to-day basis. But he’s not 225 like Edwards is. You can either go that way, or Shackelford is a little thicker but he’s 6-2. And you can’t put a big on (Edwards). He’ll just blow right by him every time.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt