COLUMBIA, S.C. — Georgia is back in Columbia for its second important SEC game in five months. Fortunately, this time the Bulldogs won’t have to worry about Marcus Lattimore.
The Bulldogs, hoping to strengthen their standing in the conference and the NCAA tournament picture, face struggling South Carolina today. The challenge for the basketball team seems less daunting than it was for the football team, which lost to the Gamecocks almost five months ago to the day (Sept. 11), the first of four straight defeats. (Lattimore rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-6 South Carolina win.)
Mark Fox’s team needs this game. The Dogs (16-7, 5-4) already have lost four SEC games, and in their next three after South Carolina face Vanderbilt (home), Tennessee (road) and Florida (road) — all teams they’ve lost to this season. With seven games remaining before the conference tournament, Georgia probably needs to go at least 4-3 and finish 9-7 in the SEC to get into the NCAA tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently projects the Dogs as an 11th seed in the S0utheast Regional.
This is a game a legitimate tournament team should win. South Carolina (13-9, 4-5) has lost four of its last five games, including the last two to Vanderbilt by 18 and Florida by 19. The Gamecocks rank 11th in conference in scoring defense, eighth in scoring offense, 10th in field goal percentage for both offense and defense and 12th in free throw percentage.
If you missed it, our Tim Tucker had a good piece by on forward Trey Thompkins, last season’s SEC player of the year, who has struggled at times this season in part because of injuries and illiness. (Thompkins was suffering from a virus last week and required an IV before the Auburn game last Saturday). An excerpt from Tim’s story:
In Georgia’s past four games, Thompkins averaged 12.8 points, down from 17.6 previously this season and 17.7 last season. He also averaged 3.8 baskets made from the field during the slump, which began with a 2-for-10 performance at Kentucky on Jan. 29. And from 3-point range, he’s 1-for-13 in the past four games to drop to 11-for-50 on the season.
“I definitely know I can step up my game a lot,” Thompkins said Friday, “and I plan to.”
That’s it for now. Win this and Georgia remains on track for a tournament bid. Lose and things get a little desperate. I’ll be live blogging from opening tip off.
By Jeff Schultz