The Georgia Bulldogs started slow in tonight’s regular season home finale against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, trailing 12-6 after over 8 minutes of play.
Coach Mark Fox called timeout with 11:50 left before the break and appeared to light into his team for their lack of effort.
Whatever Fox said certainly worked as UGA outscored Missy State 31-12 over the next 11 minutes, giving them a commanding 37-24 halftime lead.
During that stretch, Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Marcus Thornton combined for 24 of the Dawgs’ first half points.
After the intermission, Georgia continued to open up its advantage over the other Bulldogs. With just under 8 minutes remaining, Kenny Paul Geno (KPG) buried a three from the corner that gave UGA a 61-37 lead.
The Dawgs coasted to the 66-45 victory, holding the Maroon Dogs to a season-low 45 points. Missy State has now lost 12 consecutive SEC games, and a large part of tonight’s loss can be attributed to the team’s atrocious shooting. MSU finished tonight’s contest connecting on only 34% of its field goal attempts, and the Maroonies shot an ugly 0 for 15 from beyond the arc.
Georgia was led offensively by the trio of Gaines, Thornton and Mann, who scored 14, 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Marcus Thornton’s point total tonight was bolstered from a pair of three’s, and the junior finished a perfect 2 for 2 from the perimeter. Thornton is now 5 for 9 on the season from beyond the arc, giving him the best three-point percentage on the team.
Tonight’s win puts UGA at 17-12 on the year and 11-6 in the SEC.
At this point, Georgia controls its own destiny in regards to the 3-seed in the SEC tournament. If UGA can win in Baton Rouge on Saturday then they will be the 3-seed regardless of what either the Vols or Hogs do this weekend.
However, should the Dawgs lose to LSU they could find themselves in either the 4- or 5-seed, where they would most likely face Florida (should they both win) in the semifinal round.
I know that I have harped on this point already, but Georgia looks like a team that could run to the finals of the conference tournament if it could avoid seeing Florida before that point. Kentucky appears extremely vulnerable right now, getting a sloppy home win over Alabama last night to end a two-game skid.
I believe UGA could still sneak into the NCAA tournament with a win at LSU and two SEC tournament wins. Tonight’s win should drop the Dawgs RPI into the high 70s, and a road win at LSU could get Georgia’s RPI very close to the upper 60s.
The lowest-rated teams to receive at-large bids to the NCAA tournament are as follows: #67 Southern Cal and #64 Marquette (2011), #63 N.C. State (2005) and #63 Stanford (2007).
If Georgia wins the next three games, I think they have a decent chance of sneaking into the recently expanded 68-team NCAA tournament this year.