Before I could finish my cup of coffee on Monday morning, I had already read more than a few sentences on the various sports media websites regarding the Washington Huskies’ (23-10; 11-7) star point guard Isiah Thomas – the fact that he had just hit a buzzer-beater to lift his team over Arizona in the Pac-10 championship Sunday didn’t hurt his public relations either.
ESPN’s Dana O’Neil listed Thomas as one of her “Five Players to Watch” in the East Region. So did Eric Angevine of CBS Sports. Stewart Mandell of Sports Illustrated.com likes Isiah Thomas’ Huskies as a “Bracketbuster“.
Thomas has definitely been deserving of all the praise, though, averaging 16.8 ppg and earning Pac-10 First Team honors this season (along with teammate Matthew Bryan-Amaning). He can shoot it well from the perimeter, knocking down nearly 36% of this three-point attempts, as well as create off the dribble – Thomas led the conference with 6.0 assists per game.
Georgia‘s Gerald Robinson is a great defender though, and he undoubtedly will be looking forward to this defensive challenge. In the first meeting between Georgia and Kentucky, Robinson held the Cats’ star guard Brandon Knight to just 10 points – his lowest output of the season.
Knight wasn’t the only SEC point guard that Robinson frustrated this year. Ole Miss’s Chris Warren, a First Team All-SEC selection, mustered only 9 points against the Dawgs, which was his lone single-digit scoring effort of the season.
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina’s All-SEC Freshman Team’er, tallied just 9 points in 57 total minutes against the defense of GR2 this year.
Xavier’s Tu Holloway, who ended up 20th in the nation in scoring with 20.2 ppg, didn’t connect on a single field goal until the second half of the Musketeers game in Athens earlier this season. Holloway did finish with 18 points, but if you remember, nearly all of those came from the free throw line at the end of the game when Georgia was forced to foul – he only hit 3 of his 13 field goal attempts.
The match-up between Thomas and Robinson will be one (of two) key match-ups in this game, with the winner of it putting his team in a great position to advance.
The other fantastic match-up in this contest will be in the paint, between Georgia’s Trey Thompkins and Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Bryan-Amaning, a First Team All-Pac-10 selection, averaged 15.5 ppg and 8.1 rpg this year for the Huskies. On top of having a 6’9″/240 pound frame, he also has a 7’4″ wingspan – making Bryan-Amaning very difficult to shoot over – and oh yeah, he’s also tremendously athletic.
Georgia desperately needs Trey to step up and lead in this post-season if they are going to find some success. In the SEC tournament, Thompkins had a big game against Auburn, but in the closing minutes in the loss to Alabama he was nowhere to be found.
The Dawgs have squandered their fair share of leads late in games this season, and a large part of that has to do with a lack of leadership. In Georgia’s first win over Kentucky in Athens, Thompkins demanded the ball during the games final five minutes – scoring baskets and knocking down clutch free throws.
In the Bama game though (like many others), Thompkins did not step up and settle everything down. When the game is closing and things are getting tight, this Bulldog teams looks and leans on Trey for scoring and stability.
Trey Thompkins will have the national spotlight on him on Friday night when these teams tip-off approximately at 9:45pm in Charlotte, and hopefully (for Georgia’s sake) he is prepared to embrace it.