The Georgia Bulldogs (15-6; 4-4) might have gotten some help from “Old Lady Luck” on Wednesday night, as former legendary Bulldog radio announcer Larry Munson might have said. Or, it could have just been some well-deserved Karma after the way the Tennessee game ended in Athens last month.
Either way, Trey Thompkins buried a free throw with only 1.4 seconds left to salvage a 60-59 win, and quite possibly his team’s season.
Georgia had the ball with the game knotted-up at 59-59 and just 23 seconds remaining. Thompkins received the ball on the block and missed a turnaround jumper, but he followed his shot and got fouled on his second attempt.
Arkansas Coach John Pelfrey, his team and his fans all looked on in disbelief as Trey proceeded to finish them off from the charity stripe.
It was surprising how exciting the second half was considering that the first half of this game was one of the uglier halves of basketball that I have witnessed this season.
For the second consecutive game, Trey Thompkins got into foul trouble early and was forced to miss considerable time. On Wednesday night, Trey picked up his second foul with 14:30 remaining, and Coach Mark Fox was forced (once again) to sit his star player for nearly the entire first half.
When Trey Thompkins isn’t playing, Georgia’s offense tends to slow to a standstill. As a team, Georgia shot under 30% in the first half and they didn’t connect on a single three-point attempt.
The Dawgs played very strong defense from the opening tip however, and that is what kept them in this game. Georgia shut down Arkansas’s Rotnei Clarke, who was coming off a 36-point performance in his team’s win over Vanderbilt last Saturday. The Dawgs limited Clarke to just 5 points in the first half, and he finished with just 8 points (and Arkansas is now 0-4 in SEC games this season when he fails to score in double-digits).
Despite not having the preseason SEC Player of the Year for most of the game’s first half, the Dawgs went into the break only down 25-22.
The second half was a totally different story for Georgia offensively. Thompkins came out and scored the team’s first 6 points, giving his team a 28-26 lead – their first of the game. After putting up a goose egg in the first half, Trey shot 5 of 7 from the floor and poured in 12 points in the second.
As a team, Georgia shot a much-improved 51.7% from the floor in the second half, as well as connecting on 4 of their 6 attempts from beyond the arc.
Gerald Robinson, who had a semi-erratic opening half (0 assists to 3 turnovers), scored 8 of his team-high 14 points after the intermission. GR2 was much more aggressive after the break, attacking the basket and scoring 3 of his 4 field goals on lay-ups.
Jeremy Price hit a couple big shots late in the game and finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds, but he didn’t look very good doing it. Price shot just 4 of 12 from the floor, and gave Georgia fans a glimpse of what life might be like if Trey Thompkins had never signed with the Dawgs.
Dustin Ware was solid as a rock once again for Coach Fox, hitting timely baskets throughout the game and scoring 9 points on 60% shooting from the floor. Ware also grabbed 6 boards and dished out a team-high 5 assists, and most importantly, he didn’t commit a single turnover. Dustin yields a lot of the media attention to his All-SEC teammates, but he continues to play the role of “Mr. Consistent” and he is the glue that holds this bunch together.
Arkansas only had one player score in double-figures (Marshawn Powell had 16) on Wednesday, and the Hogs were plagued by atrocious free throw shooting. The Razorbacks made just 11 of 20 from the line (55%), easily the difference in the game.
All things considered, it was a pretty ugly win….but I’ll take it.
Georgia came into the game with a sub .500 conference record, and a loss would have put them at 3-5 in the SEC (with little chance of reaching 8-8 or 9-7). But the Dawgs gathered themselves at the break and came out and won a big conference road game, bolstering their record to 4-4.
Georgia has now won 2 SEC road games already this season, a feat that they failed to accomplish last year – yet another sign of this team’s improvement and maturity.
The Bulldogs get Auburn (1-6) back in Athens on Saturday in a game that they should win (easily?).
As bad as things seemed last week with losses to Florida and Kentucky, Georgia now has an opportunity to bounce back in a serious way and get their conference record back above .500.
It sounded like the Dawgs did their best “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” imitation en route to Fayetteville, and I was proud to see them step up and do what they had to do to get the win.