What a game. What a game. What a game!
I think that yesterday’s win over Kentucky was one of the best games (that’s right, I said “games” meaning I am including football) that I have ever witnessed in Athens.
The 10th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats road into Athens yesterday full of confidence and on a seven-game winning streak. The Cats left town with their third loss of the season, and they now sit at 0-1 in SEC play.
Georgia (12-2) needed to play a perfect game to beat the Cats on Saturday, and they nearly did. The Dawgs‘ defense was tenacious, feeding off of a raucous Stegeman crowd and limiting Kentucky to just 38% from the field. Georgia out-rebounded the Cats by a count of 41-37, and the Dawgs only turned the ball over merely 13 times.
The critical moment of this game came midway through the second half, when Kentucky’s Terrance Jones sank a free-throw to give his team a 56-55 lead, its first of the game. Kentucky was in the midst of a ferocious 16-8 run, and they appeared to be taking over the game with 10:05 left.
This was the part of the game where Georgia was supposed to collapse, and give way to the higher-ranked and more presitigious Kentucky team. This was the part of the game where Kentucky was supposed to start pulling away from Georgia en route to their first SEC win.
But that didn’t happen.
Mark Fox’s Dawgs didn’t let that happen.
Instead, on the ensuing possession, Dustin Ware buried a three-pointer to snatch the lead right back at 58-56.
Trey Thompkins showed everyone why he chose to return for his junior season, hoisting the Dawgs on his shoulders and scoring 8 of his game-high 25 points in the game’s final 10 minutes. With just 2:40 remaining, Thompkins hit a monster hook-shot from the baseline that put Georgia up 66-59 and essentially iced the game.
Gerald Robinson, Jr. was the player of the game though, in my humble opinion. Kentucky’s Brandon Knight came into the game on Saturday averaging over 18 points per game. He was named to the preseason All-SEC First Team before he’d ever played a collegiate came.
Something tells me that GR2 had decided before Saturday that he wasn’t about to let some frosh cruise into the Steg and walk all over him. On the contrary, Robinson shut Knight down, limiting him to just 10 points – well below his season average. GR2 was in his grill from the opening tip, and Knight was clearly frustrated and taken out of his game.
Robinson was just as tenacious on offense, driving the ball right at the teeth of the Kentucky defense. He finished the game with 17 points, and made an astounding 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.
And it wasn’t just Robinson that shot well from the line. The entire Bulldog team was lights-out from the charity stripe, connecting on 30 of 34 of their attempts. For a team that came into the game shooting barely over 60% from the line, every UGA player that got free-throw shots on Saturday looked like Mark Price.
This truly was a collective team effort, with Coach Fox getting contributions from so many different players. Travis Leslie scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Jeremy Price struggled to find his offense, but he did a phenomenal job on the glass and led his team with 10 boards. Even Marcus Thornton impacted the game, nailing a his first three-pointer of the season in the first half with the shot-clock winding down, putting his team up 35-26.
This was a win that Coach Fox’s team desperately needed. Fox came to Athens to build a basketball program, and that program just got launched into the national spotlight with Saturday’s upset of Kentucky.
No longer will ESPN analysts refer to Georgia this season as a “sleeper” or “dark horse”. Those same analysts – Jay Bilas, Jay Williams, Hubert Davis, Digger Phelps, etc – will have to start mentioning Trey Thompkins when they are debating the nation’s best players.
The Georgia Bulldogs have now won nine straight games, and they remain undefeated at home.
The Dawgs’ win over Kentucky yesterday was a huge victory for the basketball program and its fans. Their haven’t been as many “big wins” in Athens over the past few years, and yesterday’s upset of Kentucky should infuse life into a Georgia fan base that is desperate for some success.