With the Kentucky loss in the rearview mirror, Vanderbilt will get the chance to regroup and extract a measure of revenge as the University of Georgia comes to town Thursday night. In their last meeting, Georgia took advantage of a sloppy Commodore squad and came away with a 14-point victory. Since then, the 'Dores have seemed to seal up some of the holes in their defense, but Saturday's cold shooting against Kentucky may create a few questions about the team's offense headed into tonight's match-up at Memorial Gym.
Since we last saw Georgia, the Bulldogs have rolled off a pair of minor SEC upsets, toppling South Carolina and Alabama to effectively destroy both teams' chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. In between the wins are losses to Tennessee and Auburn, with the latter being an upset in the conference hierarchy. During that span, Trey Thompkins has taken over for the 'Dawgs, averaging 22 points and over 12 rebounds in the past three games.
Georgia (12-13, AP NR, Coaches NR)
Other Losses: at Kentucky, at UAB, vs. Mississippi, at Missouri, at Florida, at South Carolina, at Mississippi State, at Virginia Tech, at St. Johns, vs. Arkansas, at TennesseeWith Wofford's strong play of late, the team's recent loss to Auburn now holds the title of Georgia's worst loss. While Trey Thompkins has been dominant in most of the team's games since the Vanderbilt win, the game at Auburn stands out as the exception. The forward fouled out in just 13 minutes and had as many points as turnovers - six. Without the play of their All-SEC caliber big man, Georgia crumbled and never trailed by less than 11 points in the second half.
Key to Destruction: The obvious one is the frustration of Thompkins. Auburn was able to fluster the big man with constant pressure - so much that he averaged nearly a foul or turnover for every minute he was on the court. Without their star on the court, Travis Leslie stepped up with 19 points and 17 rebounds but shot just 40% and couldn't carry the team by himself. The team's third option, Ricky McPhee, had three more turnovers (five) than made shots (two) in the loss.
Auburn dominated the Bulldogs by challenging the team to beat them without relying on Thompkins. While Leslie's ability on the glass makes him a tough inside-out match-up on the wing, he's been ineffective when having to carry the team on his own, and the Tigers exploited that. Aside from their two dynamic players, Georgia's squad is young and limited - a recurring theme that helped dismantle the Bulldogs against Wofford earlier in the season.
The Tigers shot ugly, defended ugly, and won ugly. While Auburn only shot 43.8% and got out-rebounded, they out-hustled Georgia and won big by earning extra possessions with their tough defense. If Vanderbilt can keep up the tough front like they did against Kentucky, then they should be able to beat this Bulldog squad, even if their offense sputters again.
Keys to the game:
- Go right after Trey Thompkins: Thompkins has been the driving force behind the team's recent mini-renaissance. However, against Auburn he was harassed into 6 turnovers and 5 fouls, and Georgia lost by 19 to the second-worst team in the league. He should count on seeing a lot of Festus Ezeli and Steve Tchiengang working their agitating styles on both sides of the court to help speed him into foul trouble.
- Take advantage of Georgia's turnovers: The Bulldogs commit over 15 turnovers per game, and had 21 in the first meeting against the Commodores. In that first meeting, Vandy too often gave the ball right back and failed to turn UGA mistakes into points. They'll need to control the ball better and be smarter in transition to put away Georgia at Memorial.
Use a balanced attack: Auburn had five players score nine points or more on their way to out-playing the 'Dawgs. In Vanderbilt's first match-up with Georgia, only two guys showed up: Brad Tinsley and Jermaine Beal. Georgia has the components to beat good teams with their potent 1-2 of Thompkins and Leslie, and if the Commodores fail to show up again, they could be on the wrong end of a big upset at home.