The Georgia Bulldogs (21-10; 10-7) did not allow the Auburn Tigers any grand delusions of a second overtime game between the two teams.
Instead, the Dawgs used the Tigers as a first-round tune-up and ended their season by 3:00PM (Eastern Standard Time), winning 69-51.
Auburn came into the game averaging nearly 13 offensive rebounds per SEC game this season, yet the Bulldogs gave them a taste of their own medicine this afternoon. Georgia hit the offensive glass like a team possessed, pulling down 16 o-rebs and winning the battle of the boards by a tally of 36-22.
Georgia’s two-headed monster of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both finished with double-doubles, combining for 34 points and 10 rebounds. Leslie also did a phenomenal job of limiting Auburn’s leading scorer Ernest Ross, holding him to just 4 points on 1 of 10 shooting from the floor. In the first game between these two teams, Ross lit the Dawgs up for 30 points – Leslie was having none of that today, though.
The Dawgs jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back (or relinquished the lead). My favorite part of this game came right after the halftime break, with Georgia holding a 34-23 advantage. Anyone who has watched this Georgia team over the past year or so knows that one of their Achilles heals has been the first five minutes after intermission.
On Thursday however, the Dawgs entered the second half with the same intensity as the first. A healthy Thompkins hit two three’s before the first TV timeout, and Georgia was up 45-27 with 15:42 remaining in the half. It was so refreshing to see the Bulldogs come out of the break and put their foot on the accelerator (and to keep it on it).
The Dawgs now advance to a highly anticipated second-round match-up with the SEC West regular season champion Alabama Crimson Tide. A lot of analysts around the country are labeling this as an NCAA Tournament “Bubble Game”, with the winner earning an at-large berth and the loser – eh, who knows? Left wondering come Sunday?
Tomorrow’s game will mark the second game between these two teams in a week, with Alabama winning the first one in Tuscaloosa last Saturday 65-57. In that game, Bama out-rebounded and out-hustled the Dawgs, as well as forcing them into 16 turnovers.
In Georgia’s win today over Auburn, the Bulldogs were ferocious on the glass, and they turned the ball over just 7 times.
That’s Auburn though.
Alabama plays a different brand of defense, pressuring teams in the open court and limiting opponents to one shot – probably why they lead the SEC in team defense, holding teams to merely 60.9 points per contest.
Georgia did not handle the Tide’s pressure well in Tuscaloosa, and they must protect the ball better in the Georgia Dome if they want to advance to Saturday’s third-round game.
All-SEC First-Team selection Trey Thompkins carried his team through the first round of the conference tournament, scoring 22 points and hauling in 10 rebounds. He’ll match-up with a fellow First-Team’er on Friday in JaMychal Green, in what should be a battle in the paint.
Personally, I am beyond tired of hearing about all of the different “bubble scenarios”, “bracketology’s” and “play-in scenarios” on ESPN. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that Georgia is at a point as a basketball program where they are being mentioned in such conversations.
But I am ready to see this game played.
I think at this point, Georgia could survive a loss tomorrow and still get into the NCAA’s, yet probably as one of the teams that would play on either Tuesday or Wednesday in the new “first round”.
Coach Mark Fox’s team could take a lot of the guesswork out of the “Bubble” picture with a win on Friday.