Home Sweet Home for Dawgs

Dennis Felton

ATHENS – Nobody will confuse it for Bud Walton Arena or Pauley Pavilion, but the much-maligned Stegeman Coliseum is starting to feel homey for Georgia's basketball team.

The Bulldogs are 9-0 at home heading into today's 7 p.m. game against Arkansas in the building often called "The Stegasourous" due to its workmanlike appearance.

"Stegeman Colisum is as really special place from the standpoint of atmosphere," head coach Dennis Felton said. "It's a very intimate setting. The crowd really, really does impact the game, and the crowd really helps us."

Tonight's game will be televised by Fox Sports South.

Georgia (10-5, 1-1 SEC) is off to its best home start in five seasons. The Bulldogs started Jim Harrick's final year, the 2002-'03 season, 11-0 at home but had to forfeit all of those victories due to NCAA violations. The last time Georgia had a start this good that still counts was the 1989-'90 SEC championship season, when it went 12-0 at home.

The Bulldogs are averaging 8,150 fans, the eighth-most in the conference, in a building that opened in 1964 and has been mostly made fun of since. Georgia hasn't faced a daunting home schedule but has had its two best wins of the season – a 22-point victory over Wake Forest and a win over rival Georgia Tech – there.

"When it comes to these home games is when we have our most confidence," senior guard Billy Humphrey said. "We definitely want to win all our home games just for the simple fact that it's our home turf. We have to protect our ground and keep our fans happy and rooting for us."

Georgia officials have taken steps to increase the home court advantage at Stegeman in recent years. The Bulldogs enter the court for their pre-game warmup by walking through the student section on one baseline, slapping hands and sharing words with the crowd. The Bulldogs also have added an NBA-quality introduction since Felton arrived that includes turning out the lights and playing a video while the starting lineup of the home team is announced.

"What we enjoy most is our student attendance," Felton said. "Our students are just awesome, they come out in big, big numbers every game. They are the most vocal and the ones that bring the most atmosphere. I think our students enjoy our basketball team a lot, and we certainly enjoy the way they support us a lot."

Arkansas (13-4, 2-1) is 1-1 on the road this year under first-year coach John Pelphrey.

"It's tough to win on the road in college basketball anyway, and obviously Georgia has had success this season playing at home," Pelphrey said. "I'm sure their confidence will be high. Our basketball team has certainly had its troubles on the road period. We're going to have to come with a great focus, a great attitude, a togetherness that we haven't had all year."

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