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Saturday, March 5, 2011

UGA-Alabama hoops blog (Thompkins playing)

Final: Alabama 65, Georgia 57

Georgia lost this game because it didn't play well, and looked like the team that had less to play for on Saturday. But the thing is, this loss still leaves the Bulldogs with work to do.

First off, I don't think they're a lock to make the NCAAs in the literal sense of the word. A first-round loss in the SEC tournament would make things interesting.

Secondly, it now will be the fourth or fifth seed in Atlanta, depending on Sunday's result: If Tennessee beats Kentucky, then Georgia is the No. 5 seed; if the Vols lose, the Bulldogs are the No. 4.

That's a big difference: The fourth seed will play either Auburn or LSU in the first round, while the fifth gets Arkansas or Ole Miss.

Bottom line, this wasn't a game Georgia necessarily needed, but the way it played, sloppy and unfocused at times, wasn't a good way to finish the regular season.

2:59 left in second half, Georgia trails 58-49

This one got away from Georgia in the final few minutes. Even with Alabama's two posts in foul trouble, one of them (Chris Hines) fouling out, Georgia wasn't able to make a dent int he lead. Alabama sped the game up, and the Bulldogs weren't able to play cleanly on offense. They have 15 turnovers, including four by point guard Gerald Robinson and six charged to Travis Leslie.

Barring a late run here, Georgia is headed for the fourth or fifth seed in the SEC tournament, depending on whether Tennessee wins or loses on Sunday.

7:36 left in second half, Georgia trails 52-43

Alabama's Charvez Davis has five 3s, four this half. That's been the difference, what with Georgia not getitng anything in the way of outside shots until Dustin Ware just made a 3.

Mark Fox seems to sense the moment, calling his fourth timeout after Ware's 3. He also probably wanted to set the defense, but it didn't work, as the Tide scored.

The Bulldogs will probably need a big run here to have a chance, and they'll have to use their defense. Alabama is just getting too many easy shots.

11:51 left in second half, Georgia trails 41-33

Things aren't quite trending in the right direction here for the Bulldogs.

Georgia hasn't been able to exploit the foul trouble of Alabama's two posts, JaMychal Green and Chris Hines. That's mainly because Alabama has dictated the tempo on both ends: The Tide ratcheted up the press, forcing Georgia into some rushed passes and turnovers; and on the other end the Tide are working harder and getting 3s.

Georgia, meanwhile, still only has one 3-pointer, from Dustin Ware 54 seconds into the first half.

The Bulldogs need to do something strategically to put Alabama on its heels. Right now it's going the other way.

Halftime: Alabama 27, Georgia 21

This one reminds me a bit of the Arkansas game so far. Georgia can only hope it has the same result. The first half there was sloppy and low-scoring, and Georgia trailed at halftime, but not by a significant margin. Ditto for this one.

The Bulldogs pretty much died offensively the last part of the half, after jumping out to an 11-5 lead. Trey Thompkins hasn't scored since those first two early baskets, and Dustin Ware's 3-pointer, in the first few minutes, is the team's only made 3-pointer. In fact the Bulldogs have only tried four 3s, and have only gotten to the free throw line once - two signs the half-court offense isn't working well.

A heavy indicator for Georgia is always the rebounding margin, so it's no surprise it's losing that 18-13. Alabama has eight offensive rebounds. If that stat can turn around in the second half, Georgia might have a reprise of the result in Fayetteville.

7:35 left in first half, Georgia leads 7:35

If you're wondering why Travis Leslie is booed every time he touches the ball, no it's not because he said something bad about Bear Bryant. According to numerous fans on Twitter, Alabama fans pick a player before each game they're going to boo. Normally it's reserved for the best player, and with Thompkins uncertain to play, they designated Leslie.

So there you go.

Meanwhile, Georgia got a bit sloppy after the opening minutes, turning it over five times and missing some shots. This one has an "anybody's-game" feel to it. Alabama has a sellout crowd behind it, but Georgia has performed well in hostile environments all season.

14:46 left in first half, Georgia leads 11-5

I've spent much of the first few minutes focusing on Trey Thompkins, and from the looks of it you'd never know his status for this game was in doubt.

He's moving around fine and planting on the left foot, which has the ingrown toenail. Thompkins didn't even appear to wince when he came down on the foot following a botched alley-oop attempt from Gerald Robinson. He has four points in the first five minutes - including the basket on the opening possession, when Georgia made a point of getting him the ball right away.

This isn't to say the injury couldn't crop up later in the game, as it did against LSU. But for now, Georgia's best player looks fine.

Pregame thoughts

It must be weird for Philip Pearson, the Georgia assistant coach who spent 16 years in this building as a player and then a coach. Since he walked in about an hour ago he's probably shaken a hundred hands.

The consensus among the hacks here is that this game is bigger for Alabama, which if it doesn't win this game may need to win the SEC tournament to make the NCAAs. Even with a win today, the Tide probably need to have a good run next week in Atlanta.

Not that it's not big for Georgia. Most people think the Bulldogs are in, but not a lock. Lose this, and then in the first round in Atlanta, and suddenly selection Sunday will be quite nerve-wracking. But a win today should remove all doubt for Georgia - and ensure either a first-round bye in Atlanta, or a first-round matchup with LSU or Auburn.

Injury updates

Tuscaloosa, Ala. - It's good news on the injury front so far for Georgia: Trey Thompkins is expected to play after all, despite a toenail injury. The star forward is in uniform and warming up as we speak.

Thompkins was fitted with some protection for the toe - a "steel toe or something like that" is the description that was used. I'm not sure that's the scientific term for it.

For those of you watching from home, you'll get a nice close-up shot of the foot during the telecast. The SEC Network people secured permission to have Thompkins pull up his warmup pants so the cameras could get a zoom-in shot of his socks and shoes. Thankfully we were spared from having Thompkins take his shoe off.

Meantime, freshman forward Marcus Thornton is also cleared to play. Thornton, who missed Wednesday's LSU game with an elbow laceration, is in uniform and warming up too.

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