On Thursday night, the Georgia Bulldogs (19-9; 8-6) used a zone defense for nearly the entire game in their loss to the Florida Gators. In Athens on Saturday, the South Carolina Gamecocks deployed the same strategy, showing the Dawgs zone for the full forty minutes.
Georgia picked it apart.
The Bulldogs attacked the zone with precision-like efficiency – knocking down open shots from the wing, getting the ball to Trey Thompkins in the high post (who in turn either scored or found the cutters along the baseline). Georgia shot 46.0% from the field and nearly 37.0% from beyond the arc.
Thompkins buried a three-pointer with 10:53 left in the first half to put his team up 15-6, and the Gamecocks never recovered. The Dawgs took a 39-22 lead into the break, and then proceeded to play even-basketball with the Cocks for the remainder of the game – coasting to a 64-48 win.
I was surprised to see Coach Darren Horn keep his team in a zone, especially coming out of the intermission with the Cocks trailing by 17 points. One would think that he might want to switch to a man-to-man to pick up the tempo, but that wasn’t the case.
Trey Thompkins led the Dawgs with 20 points and 8 rebounds, his first 20-point performance since the Florida game on January 25th. Trey also turned in another great defensive effort, recording 3 shot blocks and 7 defensive boards – he now has 18 blocked shots over the past 8 games.
Gerald Robinson, Jr. struggled again on offense, going 3 for 10 from the floor and finishing with just 8 points and 6 turnovers. He did however, shut down Carolina’s Bruce Ellington once again, limiting him to 7 points and only 3 field goals (on 12 attempts). As good as a freshman campaign as Ellington has had, you can be sure he does not want to see Robinson on the court again this season.
Jeremy Price played a very productive 24 minutes for Coach Mark Fox, scoring 14 points on a barrage of dunks and snagging 6 boards. Price had an emphatic dunk-back on an offensive rebound in the first half, and then proceeded to dazzle the Stegeman crowd with his rendition of Aaron Rodgers’ “Championship Belt”. As entertaining as this spectacle was to see live, let’s hope it never happens again (Price was lucky not to get a technical foul).
Travis Leslie had the most complete game of any Bulldog though, finishing with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Leslie’s point totals can sometimes sneak up on you, but he has now gone for 15+ points in nine conference games this season.
It was reassuring to see the Bulldogs take a lesser opponent (South Carolina) and beat them soundly as opposed to letting them hang around (Auburn) – especially on their home floor. The Dawgs are now tied with the Kentucky Wildcats for third place in the SEC East (Tennessee was upset at home by Mississippi State).
If the Dawgs can take care of business on Wednesday night against LSU, they will get to the 20-win plateau as well as put themselves in a great position to earn an at-large bid into this year’s NCAA tournament.