Quick exit shouldn’t overshadow Dogs’ turnaround

Trey Thompkins came up big in what may have been his last game as a Dog. (Associated Press)

Trey Thompkins came up big in what may have been his last game as a Dog. (Associated Press)

It may have indeed been, as the headline put it, “one and done” for the Georgia Bulldogs in this year’s NCAA tournament, but Mark Fox’s players still can hold their heads high.

After years of being an SEC doormat, the Dogs were picked for the tournament in just Fox’s second year as coach and managed to make a game of it against a higher seed that’s become a regular at the Dance.

The streaky first half, which saw both teams hot and cold at times, held great promise, as Georgia kept the high-scoring Washington Huskies from setting the fast pace they like and played some tough defense. The Dogs even led by as much as seven points, as U-Dub shot poorly for much of the half and their star Isaiah Thomas was held to a mere four points while Georgia’s Trey Thompkins was superb, with 15 points and eight rebounds.

But the problems that plagued Georgia all season were still present at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, and one of them was turnovers, which allowed the Huskies to get back into the game and tie it 28-28 at the half. The other was depth. Georgia only had three players score in the first half: Thompkins, Gerald Robinson and Travis Leslie (who had a highlight-reel breakaway dunk).

Then another perennial Bulldog problem cropped up, as the Dogs got off to a poor start in the second half, not helped by a horrendous goaltending call against Leslie that the replay showed was clearly wrong. Fox was justifiably enraged.

Shooting much better than in the first half, Washington continued the way it had closed that half, going on a 17-5 run that gave them a 10-point lead and then managed to hold serve for much of the rest of the game.

Thompkins was stymied for much of the second half, though he eventually finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Georgia was hurt inside by having to keep big man Jeremy Price on the bench much of the time because of foul trouble, which meant the Dogs didn’t have much going offensively to counter their lack of an outside game. And, again, the turnovers hurt. For the evening, the Huskies turned 15 Georgia turnovers into 17 points.

Another big factor that had recurred all season: Lack of a bench. The Huskies had eight players score and got 28 points from their supporting cast while Georgia’s bench contributed nothing. Zero points.

As the clock ticked away, a feeling of inevitability settled in and yet the Dogs still made a game of it late. Having trailed by eight with 36 seconds to play, a combination of a big 3-pointer by Thompkins and some mistakes by the Huskies saw Fox’s Hounds pull to within two with 3.7 seconds to play. When a Huskie missed the second of a pair of foul shots, the game was there for the taking, but a long pass downcourt was disrupted by Thomas, Washington’s Mr. Everything, and a desperation last shot never really looked on target.

So the season ends for the Bulldogs, who never quite became a great team thanks to that lack of a bench and too many second half collapses, but managed to be competitive against almost everyone they played and, as athletic director Greg McGarity noted the other day, made Georgia basketball relevant again.

Thompkins, who probably played his last game for the Dogs, summed it up nicely afterward when he said, “Being in the tournament is a blessing; it’s an experience that I feel like every ballplayer should have while they’re in college. It takes a lot to get here and we’ve worked so hard as a team. Coach reminded us every day that we were good enough to win in the tournament. And we just fell short.”

Baby steps, as they say. Georgia made the NCAA tournament without having to do so through a freaky SEC tournament run, and this year that’s worth celebrating.

Next time, we’ll expect them to stay on the dance floor longer.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

104 comments Add your comment

Red

March 19th, 2011
10:46 am

Red

March 19th, 2011
10:49 am

Bill,

Great synopsis of the game and the year of the Dawgs. It was a great run. If Trey and Leslie leave, do you think we’ll have as good of a team next year? I know we have some young players coming in but will the Dawgs have depth next year in place of two good players leaving for the NBA?

Nick

March 19th, 2011
10:50 am

Fox got what he deserved. 3-10 record against top 50 rpi teams, not good enough. Mediocre coaching, poor conditioning, not enough talent on the team.

Nick

March 19th, 2011
10:53 am

Getting tired of McGarity’s excuses for losing “we kept it close”, “we were relevant”. No man, you lost, one and done. Pay some big time coaching staffs and invest in a first class conditioning program or get used to losing.

Nick

March 19th, 2011
10:54 am

Teams will keep beating Fox the same old way: run him, get one of his 3 scorers in foul trouble, sit your starters for the first half.

Boneless

March 19th, 2011
10:56 am

YET ANOTHER…

Nick

March 19th, 2011
10:56 am

Lack of defensive effort was embarrasing.

Nick

March 19th, 2011
10:58 am

Man, if Fox can’t win a tourney game with 2 future NBA top 20 picks, you got to wonder.

Nick

March 19th, 2011
11:02 am

The team’s loss in the first game, far overshadows the 3 wins against top 50 rpi teams. At 3-10 against top 50 rpi, the quick loss not only overshadows, but but proves there wasn’t any progress.

NYCDAWGFAN

March 19th, 2011
11:04 am

I like it Bill… Very nice breakdown. The Dawgs need to hold their heads up and use this experience for next year. The one thing I will say about the 2 stars. Thompkins could probably make it in the NBA, though another year free of injuries would help both his game and his draft stock. Leslie, sorry bro, needs to come back for his own career more than the Dawgs need him back for next years run. The kid has crazy athletic ability but, at his size, desperately lacks the ball control, shooting ability, and offensive awareness he needs to make it in the NBA. We all have to remember how great NBA players really are. Jumping out of the building will only get you so far, don’t believe me? Ask former West Virginia star Joe Alexander… And he wasn’t even as undersized at his position as Travis. In the end friends, Trey has a decision to make, Travis, I believe the tournament gave you an answer… For those of you guys that have posted with me before (either here or on Scout as “DaTruKing”) know, I do have a lot of ties and love for the TarHeels, so now I really have more fuel for wanting them to destroy Washington.:O) Tar……. Heels….. Go Dawgs!!!
Red and Black til’ Death

Nick

March 19th, 2011
11:08 am

Did I mention I hate everything?

NYCDAWGFAN

March 19th, 2011
11:17 am

Fox is likely headed to NC State, let’s face it, $3 million, and a real facility, is a lot to give up.

Red

March 19th, 2011
11:20 am

Bill-

Terrible synposis of the game. Did you watch it? Bulldogs played good first halk because Huskie’s starters werer resting on the bench most of the first half.

17-5 run was all she wrote.

Georgia was down by 8 with 30 seconds eft, and hit lucky shot after lucky shot.

And lost against a high rpi team.

AGAIN.

extrapoint

March 19th, 2011
11:22 am

I have a feeling, if Georgia’s football and basketball teams had played each other
this year, both would have found a way to lose the game.

Dr. Morpheus

March 19th, 2011
11:23 am

A huge improvement despite the blown leads…. it took a great effort to have a shot on the final shot… maybe Trey and Trav will decide to come back and prove they can close the deal.

NYCDAWGFAN

March 19th, 2011
11:27 am

Who posted with my name… I did not make the NC State remark. Reveal yourself imposter

Dawg 39

March 19th, 2011
11:29 am

Not really into BB but I can’t understand why the SEC teams are not as dominant in BB as they are in Football. There is more than Coaching involved in that. One & Done or no invite for to many teams. Any Explanation ?.

NYCDAWGFAN

March 19th, 2011
11:33 am

Seriously, Fox is gone to NC State, would you pass up $3 mill?

Dr. Morpheus

March 19th, 2011
11:34 am

Really, no improvement overall. 3-10 against top 50 rpi, no better than 2009. The team actually got worse.

Dawg 39

March 19th, 2011
11:35 am

florida dominates in both football and basketball.

Nick

March 19th, 2011
11:57 am

I’m frustrated because the Bumble Bees are now so irrelevant in every sport, I have to pick on Georgia to make myself feel better. Even last night’s Star Trek tickle-a-thon didn’t make me feel better.

Nick

March 19th, 2011
11:57 am

UGA was expected to win the SEC with Leslie and Thomkins back.

Finished 3rd in SEC.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/sec/home.htm

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

[...] webmaster@technorati.com wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt [...]

OldFan

March 19th, 2011
12:13 pm

The only way they”ll be on the dance floor longer next year is if Thompkins is still here doing the foxtrot. Neither is likely to happen.

OldFan

March 19th, 2011
12:19 pm

If Leslie and Thompkins come back, top 10 team.

Michael

March 19th, 2011
12:23 pm

man there are a lot of idiots commenting on here.

Good coach? Please

March 19th, 2011
12:28 pm

Fox once again loses a close game. Shocker.

Good coach? Please

March 19th, 2011
12:28 pm

Enter your comments here

Cuz

March 19th, 2011
12:42 pm

At least it did not screw up my tournament bracket.

Old Dawg

March 19th, 2011
12:54 pm

Depth, turnovers, defense, free throw percentage and percentage from the field. All of those make or break a team. Time to get some more players to come in off the bench, Mr. Fox.

Nice run in 11, time to get ready for 12!

Hairy Dawg

March 19th, 2011
12:55 pm

Yesterday just confirmed what anyone with a brain knew all along:

The 2010-11 Dawgs were good enough to compete with anyone. They did not have the depth or the overall talent and ability to close the deal against the better teams on their schedule.

There’s no shame in that. It’s true that Fox had Thompkins and Leslie waiting for him when he got here, but there is no good basketball tradition at this school. The only way to build that is to win consistently over time. I hope Fox stays here. He has a good recruiting class coming in next season and should be able to consolidate the gains made this season whether or not Thompkins and Leslie are both here.

DawgByte

March 19th, 2011
12:57 pm

Very frustrating! What can you say… another second half collapse. I’m getting a little tired of UGA athletics flounder spanking at the bottom of the cesspool.

Nick's an idiot

March 19th, 2011
1:04 pm

Do your homework Nick. Thompkins may be a top 20 pick. Leslie is 50 on theb ig board.

Bo Williams

March 19th, 2011
1:20 pm

NYCDawg….don’t be so presumptious young fellow; NCState will not offer Fox. They can do better.

Bo Williams

March 19th, 2011
1:22 pm

Old Fan, you are starting already. Just why do you think the same players that could not win a single game in the Tourney, would be top ten next year. Your logic fails me.

Ohio Dawg

March 19th, 2011
1:33 pm

I’m sure everyone would agree this team had the talent to do alot more this year, but for some reason it never came together consistently for a stretch run of multiple games. Sometimes a program needs to crawl before they walk – especially if things are being done the right way. As coach Fox has stated, I do believe they need to learn how to handle winning/leads – and that comes with growing pains. The NCAA birth was needed and a valuable next step. So for fans to be so critical of this coach two years in is crazy… if this trend continues in year 4,5 then I’d be the first to complain.
I do feel both Thompkins and Leslie need to return for their long term development, but other factors are at play here.. We need more contributions/scoring options from our bench and that’s coming next fall, so take a step back and enjoy our progress this year.. atleast we had a say in March..

CrackDaddy

March 19th, 2011
1:40 pm

Ohio dawg, you start out with a faulty premise – “I’m sure everyone would agree this team had the talent to do alot more this year….”

I-DOG

March 19th, 2011
1:57 pm

Bill, I can’t call this bball season a success. I understand how bad UGA was the last couple of years and that making the tourney is a step toward the right direction. However, if before the season started you had told me that we would go .500 in the league, have a losing record against top 50 teams, log one win in the SEC tourney followed by a collapse of historical proportions in the 2nd game against a mediocre Alabama team, back into the NCAA tournament as a bubble team and lose in the first round to a 7 seed… I would have told you that it wouldn’t be good enough and I think most would have agreed with that.

Just being able to win half the SEC games doesn’t look as impressive now with the SEC not doing well in the NCAA tourney. Vandy, TN, and UGA all had winnable games. and were unable to move on. KY had such a tough time with Princeton that the Tigers coach broke down and cried after the game because they had a good shot at the upset and couldn’t close it out. The SEC was not as daunting a hoops conference as we thought this year.

Basically, we were about the 38th best team in the country and while that is not terrible, it isn’t what we were hopeing for.

Ohio Dawg

March 19th, 2011
2:17 pm

We did leave alot on the table considering what we had returning talentwise, but my point is sometimes it’s not all coaching like some of you critics claim – players need to learn how to win and more importantly handle some success.. Hopefully by making the tourney the youth on the team can build on this..like I said, give the guy some time to get his players in and develop them.

Dawg 39

March 19th, 2011
2:19 pm

Another Dawg39, Not Me, says that UF dominates in both football & BB.

TH

March 19th, 2011
2:28 pm

People people…take it EASY. Let’s not confuse our “Mark’s” here. Mark Fox did a FANTASTIC job this year. Our program wasn’t even relevant in our own STATE much less the SEC. Winning big games take time. We act like because we FINALLY have some real talent that that rest of the country should just roll over and play dead for us. NEWS FLASH….OTHER TEAMS HAVE GREAT PLAYERS TOO.Enjoy what we’ve got going. Now,as for the OTHER Mark we have…..don’t get me started.

Troll Power Ratings

March 19th, 2011
2:28 pm

Nick is leading for the prize of a case each of Red Bull and Skittles.

Dawg 39

March 19th, 2011
2:30 pm

Fox is gone to NC State. $3 million, what not to love?

Florida Frank

March 19th, 2011
2:31 pm

Georgia did great this season. 3-10 against top 50 rpi, outstanding year. Please keep Mark Fox. What a great season.

Florida Frank

March 19th, 2011
2:32 pm

Nick, right on the money, Leslie top 20 pick, Thompkins top 50.

Florida Frank

March 19th, 2011
2:33 pm

Let’s see here, Basketball 2-0 record against Georgia, football 1-0. Another Georgia beatdown.

tony

March 19th, 2011
2:37 pm

The dawgs will be fine. Once Fox gets some players who have swagger and willing to takeover games down the stretch they will win more games against good teams. Fox is very fortunate to get a player like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope because he is the type of athlete who doesn’t flinch on the big stage. In crunch time Kentavious Caldwell-Pope wants the basketball in his hands. Right now the dawgs don’t have players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
.

I doubt Trey will return for his senior season but if he does they have a good chance to win it all next season with the addition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

TH

March 19th, 2011
2:43 pm

Hey brag all you want FloridaFrank. Your program is better than ours. All we can do is get better. What else is there to say? I do know for where our program has been Fox did a FANTASTIC job this year.

1953Dawg

March 19th, 2011
3:15 pm

Fox doesn’t have the program heading in the right direction. With 2 of the top 10 players in the SEC, and playing in a weak conference this year, he should have done much better than a .500 record in league play. And if he didn’t have “Brain Farts’ in crunch time during big games, this team would have won more games. This guy has yet learned how to attact full court pressure when UGA has leads in second half. He stands there and watches Robinson&Ware continue to turn the ball over, and give team no chance to win. He backed into the tournament after letting Bama beat his team twice in one week, despite having a more talented team. He never developed a bench, which means either he has no idea how to coach, or he and his staff can’t recruit players that are talented enough to play major college b.b. Either way, it spells nothing but trouble for UGA next year and the years to come. This team will have nobody to play inside next year, and they will have one good player, at least he is touted to be a good player, and that is Pope. Besides Pope, UGA will have nobody that can score, and they will have nobody that can play in the paint, and add to that there will be no depth again,because coaching staff didn’t develop players, and you have a big disaster waiting to happen. Yet that is what UGA fans are accustomed too. A coach that can’t recruit, or can’t make adjustments during a big game. Sound familar? The 2 Marks are a total joke. UGA=MEDIOCRITY. Bring back the coach of the gymnastics team, at least she has some balls, and knows how to win big events.