October 14, 2014

After a rocky finish to the regular season and a narrow escape in its SEC Tournament opener, No. 21 Arkansas is aiming to finally put together a complete performance in the semifinals.

The second-seeded Razorbacks hope to advance to their first title game in seven years Saturday in Nashville as they take on banged-up No. 3 seed Georgia, which hopes to have second-leading scorer Kenny Gaines available.

Following a seven-game winning streak, Arkansas (25-7) lost 84-67 at undefeated Kentucky on Feb. 28, edged lowly South Carolina 78-74 on March 5 and fell 81-78 at home to LSU last Saturday.

The Razorbacks seemed to be back on track in Friday's quarterfinals when it built a 20-point advantage against 10th-seeded Tennessee. However, they missed 12 of 15 field-goal attempts down the stretch and went 0 for 6 from 3-point range in the second half before hitting their late free throws in an 80-72 victory.

''I looked at the stats and the stats I'm most proud of, we were 32 of 39 from the free-throw line,'' coach Mike Anderson said.

Bobby Portis was 9 of 10 from the line en route to 26 points as Arkansas snapped a seven-game skid in the tourney. The SEC Player of the Year needs three points to become the school's first sophomore to hit 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.

The Razorbacks will try to advance to their first tournament championship game since a 66-57 loss to Georgia in 2008. Portis, though, insists the team isn't looking ahead to a possible showdown with top-ranked Kentucky.

"In due time everything will play out," he said. "But we have to just come out (against Georgia) just ready to play."

Gaines finished with nine points in the Bulldogs' 74-62 quarterfinal win over 11th-seeded South Carolina on Friday after missing one game due to a sprained left foot. The guard had 10 on 2-of-8 shooting in a 79-75 home loss to Arkansas on Jan. 6.

''Will (Gaines) be able to bounce back, after playing 27 minutes, tomorrow afternoon?'' coach Mark Fox said. ''He's a tough rascal now, but I'm not sure. We'll have to see how much he swells and how he feels in the morning.''

Charles Mann is expected to play for Georgia (21-10) despite appearing to injure his knee in Friday's second half, but Juwan Parker's status is uncertain after sitting for the 13th time in 15 games with an Achilles injury.

Arkansas seeks its third straight win in the series after Fox called the intensity of the first meeting "like an NCAA Tournament game." Portis had 21 points and Michael Qualls added 17 to help the Razorbacks claw back from a 13-point deficit.

Qualls also had 20 points in the previous meeting, a 87-75 home win March 1, 2014.

The Bulldogs will likely be focused on defense and taking care of the basketball after allowing Arkansas to shoot 51.7 percent while committing 17 turnovers in January. They might be able to control the boards, where they owned a 40-25 edge.

Marcus Thornton had 15 points and eight rebounds Friday, while Yante Maten scored a career high-tying 13 - including six straight down the stretch - and had a personal-best 10 boards as Georgia outrebounded the Gamecocks 34-29.

Georgia has held opponents to under 40.0 percent shooting in six of its last seven games, though it allowed a 46.5 field-goal percentage while dropping all four versus ranked opponents this season.

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