Georgia at LSU
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Baton Rouge, La.
On TV: ESPN
Georgia will have to overcome some unusually difficult travel challenges if it is to extend its first winning streak since late December.
Saturday’s overtime win over Arkansas was crucial for Georgia (11-6, 4-3 Southeastern Conference), which needs a strong run to improve its hopes for a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Georgia visits Louisiana State (12-7, 5-2 SEC) on Tuesday night. LSU is 10-1 at home. After the return flight to Athens, Georgia then takes another long flight west to play at No. 17 Baylor on Saturday in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
“I’m not jumping up and down about it, to be honest with you,” coach Mark Fox said on Monday when asked about taking a break from the SEC schedule.
Fox said playing a ranked Baylor team in January is “probably good for publicity” for the SEC. He said the trip to Waco, Texas won’t be easy on his players.
“If I had a home game before it, maybe I’d be a little more excited,” he said.
Georgia’s modest two-game winning streak includes Saturday’s 76-73 overtime home win over Arkansas. Georgia took its first road conference win of the season last week by beating Missouri.
Georgia has won eight of its last 11 games following a 3-3 start. That stretch included wins over Georgia Tech and Clemson from the ACC.
The Bulldogs have opportunities this week to add quality wins that would impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.
“In the grand scheme of things, it is a plus,” Fox said. “It’s a challenging week certainly for our team with the people we’re playing and where we’re playing. Life is about challenges and hopefully our team will be able to meet those challenges and play well.”
A key for Georgia has been the emergence of sophomore forward Yante Maten, who leads the team with his averages of 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Maten will be matched with LSU star freshman Ben Simmons, who is averaging 19.6 points and 12.6 rebounds.
“I do like the challenge,” Maten said Monday. “You have to rise to the occasion sometimes.”
Maten insisted he wouldn’t make any changes for Simmons.
“I just play to my strength,” Maten said. “I don’t ever really adjust my game to anyone else. I know what I can do and I take it from there.”
Fox said Simmons “is not a one-man army.”
“He’s got a lot of help and he is terrific,” Fox said. “He is as good a college player as you’ll see.”
Fox said Maten “has been bloodied up the last couple games.” Maten briefly left the Arkansas game with a cut lip. He said Monday he is “all good.”
J.J. Frazier led Georgia with 26 points against Arkansas despite playing with a migraine. Fox said Frazier wasn’t totally recovered on Sunday.
“I don’t foresee any lingering issues,” Fox said. “He has three or four of these a year. I think by game time he should be fine.”