Georgia wins 60-56
As I write this, the Georgia players and coaches are jogging into the tunnel a very relieved bunch.
After nearly blowing a 23-point second-half lead, the Bulldogs have held on for a crucial road win. All credit to Trey Thompkins, who blocked Bruce Ellington's 3-point try that would have tied it.
And then credit Gerald Robinson, who made the second of his free throw attempts to seal it with 4.6 seconds left.
Not pretty ... but this is the kind of game Georgia won earlier this season. It could portend good things down the road - and either way, the Bulldogs are now 6-4, tied with Vanderbilt for second place in the East.
3:58 left, Georgia leads 55-47
Georgia can't end up blowing a 23-point lead in the second half, can it? Well, it's doing its best. It doesn't help that the Gamecocks have found their shooting stroke, but the Bulldogs are also having trouble with the half-court trap.
Travis Leslie has been on the bench with four fouls. It'll be interesting to see when Mark Fox decides he needs him back out there. It's incredible this is back to being almost a two-possession game.
7:41 left, Georgia leads 49-36
It's not quite over yet. South Carolina closed back within 13 a few moments ago, and had possession before missing a jumper.
The Gamecocks will be pressing and heaving 3s the rest of the way. That means Georgia isn't going to be able to stall much, so it'll need to cut down on the turnovers and at least guard the perimeter.
10:18 left in second half, Georgia leads 47-26
A flurry of 3s by Georgia - two by Dustin Ware, and one each by Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins - has made this a comfortable lead for Georgia once again. That was after South Carolina was threatening to make it a game again.
Still, Mark Fox is spending a lot of time looking disgusted. During one recent timeout, he walked away from the huddle and looked at the box score for about 20 seconds, shaking his head. Coaches obviously never look too pleased during a game, even a shellacking this one has been.
16:17 left in second half, Georgia leads 34-19
Georgia had better be careful here. It largely was able to just watch and enjoy in the first half as South Carolina clanged shot after shot. But the Gamecocks got out of the gates quickly here in the second half, and the crowd is getting back into it.
That's why Dustin Ware's 3-pointer, after South Carolina had climbed within 31-19, was huge. Another helpful event for Georgia was Sam Muldrow, the shot-blocking Gamecock center, picking up his third foul.
But the Bulldogs can't coast for awhile here. At least not yet.
Halftime: Georgia leads 28-9 ... No really, that's the score
The story of this game so far is how badly South Carolina is playing. Georgia has something to do with that, but wow.
The Gamecocks, an SEC team, only had nine points in the first half ... on their home court. They're 4-for-28 from the field, and 0-for-12 from beyond the arc. So much for knowing the home rims and all.
Georgia, meantime, could be up by 30, but I'm sure it won't grumble about a 19-point lead on the road. And that's with Travis Leslie and Gerald Robinson sitting the last few minutes after picking up their second fouls.
3:53 left in first half, Georgia leads 24-7
Georgia is happily benefiting from what is ... wow ... some really bad basketball from South Carolina.
The Gamecocks missed their first nine 3-pointers, and started 2-for-21 from the field. Travis Leslie's three-point play, putting back his own miss while being fouled, made it 22-5 with 5:50 left. He picked up his second foul on the other end, then Gerald Robinson also picked up his second.
But the Bulldogs can afford to play without each of them until the Gamecocks exhibit some knowledge of the location of the basket. Plus, the Bulldogs are doing a pretty good job of ball movement, getting some easy baskets as a result.
11:29 left in first half, Georgia leads 15-3
Trey Thompkins hasn't scored yet, and the Bulldogs are still dominating. That's a good sign - as is the fact that Georgia is having little trouble with South Carolina's press, and the Gamecocks are shooting as cold (1-for-11 right, 0-6 on 3s) as they did Wednesday against Florida.
South Carolina's first points came on a fast-break layup off a Georgia turnover. It still can't hit anything from the outside. But Georgia's Sherrard Brantley can, and his corner 3 caused a Gamecock timeout.
A couple times now Georgia has used its passing to beat the Gamecock press and get an easy look at the basket. The way Darrin Horn coaches, that should be there all day.
15:11 left in first half, Georgia leads 6-0
Things have started very well for Georgia, and not just because South Carolina can’t hit a shot.
Travis Leslie is very active so far, with four points and a couple rebounds.
Georgia’s half-court offense looks very fluid. Defensively the team is boxing out well, not giving up any offensive rebounds despite South Carolina’s seven missed field goals.
A divisional note
Vanderbilt has knocked off Kentucky, leading me to two thoughts:
1. Georgia's marquee win remains over Kentucky, and that's losing a bit of its shine - but it also means that a win over Vanderbilt next week would be huge for the tourney resume'.
2. If Georgia beats South Carolina, and Florida beats Tennessee, then Georgia and Vanderbilt will be tied for second place. If that happens, when those two teams meet on Wednesday it will not only be for sole possession of second place, but possibly inside track to have an SEC tournament bye.
Mr. Blog Man returns to Columbia
COLUMBIA, S.C. - I feel a bit like Brett Favre coming back to Green Bay. Except without the hoopla, personal fame or winning history.
As some of you may know, I spent the previous four years as the beat writer covering the South Carolina men's basketball team. So it's a bit weird coming in here covering the opposing team. Then again, considering the visitors have a much better shot at the NCAA tournament, well ...
But if Georgia is going to have a legit shot at the big dance, this one may be pivotal: The best two things on its resume' right now are a lack of bad losses and its road record. South Carolina isn't terrible, but its RPI is lower than any team Georgia has fallen to so far this season.
I'm expecting a contrast of styles today: South Carolina lives off its press and 3-point shooting, but the downside to that is it gives up a lot of easy layups, especially in transition. The Gamecocks also don't like to double the post. So does that mean Trey Thompkins is due a big game? Possibly, and even Travis Leslie if he can get open in space.
The easy read on this game is it will come down to whether Georgia's layups out-number South Carolina's 3-pointers. (And by an appropriate ratio.) But these games never tend to turn out the way you expect.
One thing seems certain: Georgia, and especially Gerald Robinson, need to take care of the ball today, at least more than the Bulldogs have been the past couple weeks.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Georgia wins 60-56