Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a big fan in Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson.
"I know he's not playing like a sophomore," Anderson said during this week's SEC teleconference. "He's putting up numbers, not just scoring the ball, but he's doing so much other things for his team. He's one of the better guards in this conference, who not only can score, but can pass the ball. He's someone who's very athletic with a pretty good basketball IQ."
The numbers ring loud and clear for Anderson, whose Razorbacks (16-9, 7-5) get ready to host Georgia (12-13, 6-6), which will be looking to break a two-game losing streak Thursday night at 7 p.m. Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville (ESPN2, Reece Davis and Bob Knight).
Caldwell-Pope enters play averaging 17.7 points per game, which ranks second in the SEC. In fact, he ranks among the SEC leaders in nine of the 13 categories for which individual stats are compiled.
Unfortunately for Georgia, the Bulldogs are still searching for the kind of consistent offensive support desired by head coach Mark Fox, who at least has been able to rely on his team's defense to stay competitive in SEC play.
That includes last Saturday's controversial 84-74 loss in overtime to Ole Miss, after the officials failed to whistle an apparent foul during an inbound attempt with 0.6 seconds left, which if called would have sent the Bulldogs to the free throw line with a chance to win the game in regulation.
Fox danced around the call when asked about it by reporters.
"Well, I have had a chance to review it and we've got to get ready for Arkansas," said Fox, who preferred to talk about his team's 3-3 road mark in conference games so far this year.
"We've played well on the road this year, and I thought we played well the other night," Fox said. "Our kids have accepted the challenge of playing away from home. I think our defense has been progressing consistently all year and has been a great stabilizer for us and that's been a key in trying to slow the home teams down. It's given us a chance to win away from home."
The Bulldogs' defensive numbers are better than one might think.
Georgia ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring defense (61.3 points per game), and is the conference's third-toughest team in regards of shooting percentage as opponents are converting just 39.1 percent of their shots.
The Bulldogs are also fourth in defensive rebounding, snaring 24.7 defensive boards per contest.
Considering Arkansas is the conference's second-highest scoring team (76.3 ppg), Thursday's contest figures to be one of the team's sterner tests.
Marshawn Powell and guard BJ Young lead the Razorbacks with 15.2 and 16.5 points per game, respectively.
"My impression of Arkansas is quite complimentary of their team. They have a number of guys who can score and a number of guys who can dribble inside the lane," Fox said. "Their defense is terrific and for us to win at Walton, we're going to have to play a complete game. We've got to make sure we take care of the ball and find a way to guard so many guys who can score."
Anderson, meanwhile, will no doubt make slowing Caldwell-Pope priority No. 1.
"I think most freshmen as they become sophomores, they become more well-rounded than they were their previous season," Anderson said. "There's also the strength factor, plus the game slows down. The game slows down for you and you start playing it the right way. You think more about what you're doing, and he's playing it with a lot of confidence now."
NOTES: A month ago, Georgia began its SEC schedule with an RPI rating of 205. The Bulldogs enter the game with an RPI of 121, due to the fact three of their past five wins were against Top 100 teams.
If Caldwell-Pope finishes the year as the only Bulldog in double-figures, this would make the Bulldogs the only Georgia team in the past 50 years with just a single double-figure scorer.
Georgia has used 12 different starting lineups this season. The one constant through all 12 lineups is, of course, has been Caldwell-Pope. Five other teammates (both Williamses (Vincent and Donte), Brandon Morris, John Florveus and Nemi Djurisic) now have double-digit starts.
Caldwell-Pope is on pace to reach 1,000 career points by season's end. If he gets there, he'll be the 42nd player in UGA history to reach that milestone, but he'll be the first since Jarvis Hayes (2002-03) to reach it in just two seasons. Caldwell-Pope is also one of just 11 players in all of NCAA Division I that have scored in double-figures in each of their team's games.