Seldom-used Georgia (20-9; 9-6) guard Matt Bucklin took his man off the dribble, hung in the air and buried an 18-foot jump shot (while getting fouled I might add), sending the UGA student section into a frenzy. This was Bucklin’s first field goal of the season, and with 26 seconds left in the game Stegeman was as loud as it had been all night.
It should be noted however, that Georgia was leading by twenty at this point and the game was well in hand.
The game wasn’t entirely peachy for the Dawgs though, as they got out to a terribly slow start against LSU. Georgia Coach Mark Fox had his team start out in a zone against the Tigers – not a bad strategy considering LSU came into this game shooting just 40.0% from the field as a team.
But LSU was surprisingly hot to start the game, and they jumped out to a 13-4 lead with 13:41 to go before the intermission – Georgia’s cold shooting aided the Tigers in building this lead as well.
The Dawgs offense woke up however, especially junior guard Dustin Ware, who canned 3 three-pointers during a 22-6 Georgia run that left the Bulldogs up 26-19 with 2:47 left in the half. Fox also switched his team into a man defense, and LSU started being LSU, turning the ball over 11 times in the first half (the Tigers finished with 18 turnovers). Georgia made the most of the Tigers’ sloppiness on Wednesday, scoring 23 points off of turnovers.
The Dawgs took a 30-25 lead into the half, and they came out of the break with a lot of focus. Georgia scored the first 6 points of half number two, and the Dawgs proceeded to go on a 17-7 run that put them up 47-32 with 12:42 left. This was the run that put the Tigers to bed, and Georgia coasted to a 73-53 victory – their 20th of the season.
According to the AJC’s Tim Tucker, Trey Thompkins was dealing with a toe injury on Tuesday and that is why he only played 22 minutes against LSU (scoring 8 points and grabbing 5 rebounds) – his status for Saturday’s game in Tuscaloosa is questionable.
Luckily for Thompkins, his teammates were more than capable of picking up the slack. Four Georgia players – Gerald Robinson, Dustin Ware, Travis Leslie, Jeremy Price – finished the game in double-figures, with Robinson’s 16 points leading the way.
Robinson attacked the basket relentlessly and put a lot of pressure on the LSU defense by pushing the ball all night. His 16 points was his highest scoring total since the Missy State game back on January 22nd.
Dustin Ware, who lit the Tigers up from the beyond the arc in the first half, ended up with 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting from three-point range.
Travis Leslie, the only player to post a double-double, was the game’s MVP (in my humble opinion). After a sluggish start (just 3 points in the first half), Leslie got his offensive going after the break and finished the game with 14 points. He also led the Dawgs with 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals – Leslie was definitely peppering the stat sheet on Wednesday.
And Georgia reached the coveted 20-win mark, the first time in nearly a decade. By bolstering their conference record to 9-6, the Dawgs have now assured themselves of a winning SEC record for the season.
It’s a bit disconcerting to think that Georgia may have to play Alabama without the services of their star player (as well as Marcus Thornton who was on the bench with his arm heavily wrapped), but the Dawgs might be better-served to allow Trey to heal up before the conference tournament next week.
If Georgia were to upend Bama on Saturday, there is a scenario in which the Dawgs finish second in the SEC East – Vandy loses at home to Florida and Kentucky loses at Tennessee (both are definitely possibilities).
No matter where Georgia ends up in the final conference standings though, I’m very proud of what they accomplished this year on the court (20+ wins and 9+ SEC wins). I am also equally excited to see this team do some damage in the postseason.