When Mercer got up 48-37 with just 8:32 remaining in the game, Georgia‘s chances of winning were starting to look bleak.
Luckily for the Dawgs, Trey Thompkins decided to give them a spark and buried a clutch three-point shot on the ensuing possession. After a stop on the defensive end, Thompkins converted another three points “the old-fashioned way” on a nice entry pass from Gerald Robinson, Jr.
Mercer took the ball the length of the court only to have it stripped away by none other than, Trey Thompkins.
Jeremy Price converted on a basket underneath to give Georgia a 49-48 lead with 4:53 left, their first lead since the 10-minute mark in the first half. And it was Price who had a nice hustle play on defense a few possessions later, drawing a foul on Mercer guard Jeff Smith during a scramble for a loose rebound. Price converted 1 of 2 free throws to give Georgia a 54-53 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish again (Price finished with 11 points and 6 boards).
But the end of this game was not without its dramatics.
Georgia‘s Trey Thompkins botched an in-bounds pass to Gerald Robinson with under a minute to go which resulted in a Bud Thomas steal for the Bears. And just to clarify, Georgia was leading 54-53 and essentially just needed to put the ball in play so that they could be fouled and shoot free throws. This was one of the 18 turnovers the Dawgs committed last night, matched by just 10 assists – the first time Georgia has had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio since their 61-58 win over Manhattan back in November.
Luckily for the Dawgs, Mercer’s Brian Mills, who had a career night (21 points, 12 rebounds), froze up on the game’s final two possessions. Following Trey’s turnover, Mills had the ball in his hands with 7 seconds on the shot clock and a chance to give his team the lead, but alas he traveled – turning the ball back over to Georgia.
Mercer then had the ball again with another opportunity to go ahead with only 13 ticks left on the clock, but Mills mishandled a beautiful interior pass that would have set him up for an easy score.
And as if things hadn’t been close enough, Georgia’s Trey Thompkins tossed another in-bounds pass all the way to half court (from the baseline) between two Mercer defenders – he was fortunate that Travis Leslie (and his 40-something inch vertical) was on the receiving end to snag the ball out of the air and get fouled.
Leslie buried both free throws, putting Georgia up 56-53 and ending the game.
As close and ugly as this game was for Georgia, surprisingly, the Dawgs did not come out flat. On the contrary, Georgia started with a nice intensity and built up a comfortable 19-8 lead with 12:40 left before the break behind 12 quick points by Travis Leslie – he finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds.
But then Georgia’s offense screeched to a halt, allowing Mercer to go on a 23-5 run that gave the Bears a 31-24 lead at the half. The trio of Trey Thompkins, Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Travis Leslie all picked up 2 fouls fairly early in the first half, and Mercer clearly took advantage of the Dawgs’ reserves.
Georgia shot just 42.2% from the field on Thursday night and they hit only 2 of their 8 three-point attempts.
Dustin Ware, who came into the game shooting a red-hot 44% from beyond the arc, attempted merely one shot on the night (a missed three-pointer). In the three games prior to the Mercer game, Ware was averaging 13.3 points per game. But on Thursday night against the Bears, he seemed extra tentative on offense and repeatedly found himself not ready to shoot on open kick-outs. Dustin is a junior and the best outside shooter on this team, and he needs to give Georgia some offense from the three-point line on a more consistent basis.
Up to this point, I feel as though I have been pretty lenient in regards to Georgia’s freshman duo of Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams. However, last night was another opportunity for them to make plays against a smaller school (with a 3-7 record) and once again, they both looked lost. Actually, neither player got their shots to reach the rim – Thornton was rejected for the 20th time this season and Williams was (luckily) bailed out on his field goal attempts by cheap fouls – Donte connected on 1 of 4 free throws.
Again, I realize they are freshman, but Thornton was named Mr. Georgia Basketball last year. Shouldn’t he be able to compete against teams like Arkansas State, High Point and Mercer? Shouldn’t the players on these schools be no match for a high school blue chip? In 41 minutes against those aforementioned teams, Marcus has mustered 4 points (1-5 FG), 4 rebounds and he’s made just 2 of his 6 free throw attempts. If Thornton and Williams are struggling against the competition that they are seeing now, how will they fare next month when Kentucky rolls into Athens on January 8th for the start of the SEC season?
I guess I am just a tad worried that Georgia doesn’t have as much depth as Mark Fox thought they did coming into this season.
As a team, Georgia had another tough night from the charity stripe (or on par?), shooting a dismal 61.5%. It should be noted however, that Travis Leslie was a perfect 8 of 8 from the line, and he made the two big ones that put his team up by three at the end of the game.
On a personal note, I did think that the University Center in Macon was a really nice little gym, and the atmosphere inside was great last night. The game was WAY closer than people thought it would be, but Georgia did find a way to win its sixth straight game and they now sit at 9-2 on the season.
I guess Mark Fox said it best on his twitter account following the game: “Like my brother told our buddy when we were young, even an ugly girlfriend is a girlfriend… We’ll take the W. Go Dawgs! Merry Christmas!”