Final: Georgia 69, Auburn 51
The Bulldogs did the minimum that they needed to do here, surviving the first-round game. Now it sets up the important quarterfinal against Alabama, although just how important that is remains up for debate.
(The fact that Oklahoma State didn't upset No. 2 Kansas helps. So far, there haven't been a lot of bid-stealing upsets, but there's plenty of time to go.)
3:01 left, Georgia leads 65-45
Barring some sort of calamitous event, which at the Georgia Dome for an SEC tournament you can never safely rule out, Georgia will be playing Alabama in Friday's quarterfinal. As expected.
Trey Thompkins came out a few minutes ago, probably just for some rest. He may not go back in. Say what you will about Thompkins' play over the last stretch of regular-season play - and he did under-perform at times - but he had a big game today. His team just may need it again on Friday.
8:21 left in second half, Georgia leads 57-41
The Bulldogs haven't quite put the clamp down on this one yet, but there also doesn't appear any imminent danger of an Auburn comeback. Still, Mark Fox has his starters in right now, perhaps figuring that the Tigers, if they're going to make their run, would do it about now.
I think Georgia needs to put this one out of doubt soon for a couple reasons. (Besides the obvious one.) First, it wouldn't hurt to get the starters some late-game rest, considering the short turnaround. Secondly, if people at the NCAA selection committee are watching, a rout would look a lot better than a 10-12 point win.
15:42 left in second half, Georgia leads 45-27
Georgia is doing what it didn't the first time against Auburn, or a number of other games the past month: Put a team away when it should. The Bulldogs have their biggest lead of the game, thanks to a couple 3s by Trey Thompkins - who now has 20 points. His season-high is 26.
There have been times this year when Thompkins has not looked like the first-round pick that some have projected. But he did a moment ago, when he step-dribbled and nailed a spot-up 3 from the top of the key. For someone 6-foot-9, that's why he's an NBA prospect.
Halftime: Georgia 34, Auburn 23
The Bulldogs were on the verge of a pummeling in the final stretch of the first half, leading by as many as 15. Auburn got the final four points of the half after some Georgia sloppiness, but the Bulldogs still look like they could put this one away early.
Georgia's inside play, especially the rebounding, has been the story so far: UGA has a 24-14 advantage on the boards, with 13 offensive rebounds.
Trey Thompkins (14 points) came to play, appearing to know the team is playing for its NCAA tournament life right now. Thompkins has had only 20-point game since Jan. 25. And Travis Leslie, while he's shot two airballs, is getting his chances inside, and has nine points.
Cause for concern: Not much really, other than the final minute or so, and a lack of outside shooting for the Bulldogs. Auburn is also probably due for a run at some point, but that's no guarantee.
4:32 left in first half, Georgia leads 24-17
Auburn is playing a zone, as it usually does, in the hopes that Georgia will try to find the seams on the outside and hoist 3s. The Bulldogs aren't biting, and instead are continuing to feed it inside, where the Tigers have been killed defensively all year.
So far it's working for Georgia, but Mark Fox has to be worried that his team isn't getting anything from outside. On the other hand, he has to love the fact that his team has eight offensive rebounds.
11:25 left in first half, Georgia leads 16-11
If this game ends up being decided by points in the paint, it bodes well for Georgia. The Bulldogs are making an obvious effort to get the ball inside every possession, and the result so far has been seven points for Trey Thompkins, two for Jeremy Price, and four for Travis Leslie, off of free throws.
On the defensive end, Auburn isn't getting anything inside, other than free throws resulting from a suspect foul against Price. But the Tigers have hit a few jumpers. Georgia will take that as long as those shots don't start coming from beyond the arc.
Earnest Ross, who single-handed kept Auburn in the game in Athens, has been held scoreless so far.
15:40 left in first half, Georgia leads 7-4
The game started with Georgia missing a shot, Auburn flubbing the loose ball rebound, and Dustin Ware hitting a 3. Yup, sounds about right.
The Bulldogs look like they have the right energy level, but keep in mind they jumped out on Auburn very early in Athens too.
Hello from the Dome
ATLANTA - It's going to be a long day for a few of us scribes: This game is at 1 p.m., and then we have to hustle back to Athens for the end of the first spring football practice. Pray for my sake that Georgia and Auburn don't go to triple overtime. (They only went one the first time.)
As expected, fans of the Kentucky basketball program are quickly taking over Atlanta. Even though Auburn and Georgia are the closest two programs to Atlanta, we fully expect that there will be more Wildcat fans in the stands for the game. And that's with Kentucky not playing until Friday.
Oh well, at least it gives it some flavor.
As for this game, Georgia checks in at an 11.5-point favorite. Check this space for updates throughout the game, and perhaps afterward if there's time.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Final: Georgia 69, Auburn 51