In the Georgia Bulldogs (15-6; 4-4) loss at Kentucky last week, Trey Thompkins played just 11 first-half minutes. In the Arkansas game on Wednesday, Trey logged merely 4 minutes of playing time in the game’s first half.
Thompkins has now missed significant playing time in consecutive games due to foul trouble, and as expected, the Dawgs offense has suffered, scoring only 60 points in each of the last two contests. Georgia is leading the SEC in scoring in conference games at 74.4 ppg, but without Trey on the floor, that number becomes unattainable.
On Saturday, Georgia hosts the Auburn Tigers, the worst team in the league. The Tigers have won just 1 of their first 8 conference games, and they only have 8 wins on the season (also the lowest in the SEC). Other than a fluke 65-60 win over Florida State back on January 3rd, this season has been a total disaster for Auburn with losses to UNC-Asheville, Samford, Campbell, Rutgers, Presbyterian and LSU (to name a few) – not exactly the nation’s elite programs.
Offensively, the Tigers have been – “challenged”. Through the first half of the SEC season, Auburn is averaging 59.4 ppg, which is second to last in the league. The Tigers are either playing with a lid on the rim, or they are just plain bad at shooting. As a team, Auburn is hitting a frigid 36.1% from the field and under 30% from beyond the arc (they are also dead-last in the SEC from the line – 62.5%).
According to Rivals.com, the Tigers are just living up to their preseason expectations.
Georgia will definitely be the better team on the court on Saturday, and they should be heavily favored. However, last year it felt like the Dawgs had the more talented squad, yet they were blown out on The Plaines 82-63. In that game, Trey Thompkins battled with foul trouble the entire night, finishing with just 6 points and 4 boards before finally fouling out.
The toughest opponent that the Dawgs will face this weekend is themselves. Georgia can ill-afford to have Thompkins get into foul trouble once again, as it will level the playing field for the Tigers.
The Dawgs also need to resist the temptation of looking ahead to their big-time, out-of-conference clash with Xavier next Tuesday. As exciting as that game should be, in the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s SEC game with Auburn is more important.
With all the faults that exist within the Auburn offense, they do have one area of the game that they do exceptionally well – rebound. The Tigers hit the glass hard, hauling down 15.1 offensive boards a game, ranking them second in the conference in that category.
Georgia has been very strong on the defensive glass in conference games this season, bringing down nearly 28 per game (1st in the SEC). However, nearly 7 of those defensive boards are coming from Trey Thompkins. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again – Trey cannot get into foul trouble in this game.
I’m not sure where Travis Leslie has been the last two games, but I bet that Coach Mark Fox would love to have him back. In the first six conference games this year, Leslie was playing like a preseason All-SEC team member, averaging 17.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg. In his last two contests, he is netting just 6.0 ppg and bringing down only 4.0 rpg. The Dawgs are going to need him to snap out of his offensive slump as they head into the second half of the conference slate.
What more can be said? It’s hard to get too excited about playing a team that sports a 1-7 SEC record, with a 1-4 road record to boot.
The Dawgs just need to take care of business and defend their home court, something that hasn’t been easy for them thus far in conference games. Georgia is 2-2 in SEC games played at Stegeman Coliseum, and if they hope to extend their season into late March the Dawgs need to win the remaining five games in Athens (plus the one against Xavier, so technically six).
The Dawgs were able to sneak back into Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology this week, following their road win at Arkansas last Wednesday. They are still listed with “Work Left to Do” in the latest “Bubble Watch“, but with an RPI of 35, I’d say Georgia is moving over to the favorable side of the bubble.
There are a couple other SEC East games of interest being played on Saturday – South Carolina at #24 Vanderbilt and #11 Kentucky at #23 Florida (ESPN’s “College Gameday” game).
If Georgia does what they’re supposed to do on Saturday and beats Auburn, there is a good chance they could move up to 3rd place in their half of the conference by Sunday.