In beating the regal Big Blue, UGA proves it’s big-time, too

Gerald Robins and Trey Thompkins: Some darn good Dawgs. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Gerald Robinson and Trey Thompkins: Some darn good Dawgs. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

ATHENS – We might have seen the eventual SEC champion here Saturday, and that team mightn’t be the one you’d think. The Georgia Bulldogs looked snooty Kentucky in the eye and weren’t overly impressed by what they saw. The Bulldogs, see, have reason to believe they’re the class of this league, and this result did nothing to dissuade them.

Said Trey Thompkins, surely the SEC’s best player: “We expect to play with teams like Kentucky and Tennessee and Florida. … We feel like we can play with anybody.”

Georgia beat Kentucky 77-70, and it was no home-court fluke. Georgia was the better side for 35 of the 40 minutes. It built an early lead, saw it disappear not long after halftime and then rebuilt it. It was just as Mark Fox, the canny Georgia coach, said it would be.

Here’s what Fox said he told his Bulldogs, who led by 11 at halftime: “[That] we were mature enough to play 40 minutes, mature enough to withstand the run we knew they were going to make. We’re an older team now, and we should be able to finish this type of game.”

And there’s the key reason — one of two key reasons, actually — that Georgia has a chance to serious damage: The Bulldogs are seasoned in a way most big-time college teams aren’t. They start a senior and four juniors. Most of these guys suffered through the final days of Dennis Felton and have found in Fox the man who could maximize their potential.

It’s also clear, in the cold light of hindsight, that Felton’s final recruiting class was his best: Thompkins was in it, and so were Travis Leslie and Dustin Ware. Thing was, Felton’s grind-it-out style would never have showcased their talents. Georgia needed a tactician for that, and Damon Evans, then Georgia’s athletic director, found a Fox for his Hounds.

This correspondent trashed the Fox hire, and this correspondent was as wrong as he has ever been on anything. (Which is saying something.) Fox can sketch X’s and O’s with anybody, and Saturday he outdrew the head Wildcat. John Calipari’s methodology is to recruit one-and-dones and let them freelance off his dribble-drive offense. Fox runs Tex Winter’s old triangle — most know it as Phil Jackson’s triangle — and in this team he has the requisite three sides.

Georgia got the ball where it wanted more often Saturday and found better shots. (It made 44.9 percent of its shots to Kentucky’s 38 percent.) It fed Thompkins early — he had 14 points in 17 first-half minutes — and allowed its guards to shoot when Calipari switched to a zone to keep Thompkins from setting some sort of record. But come the game’s biggest possession, Georgia up five inside the final three minutes, guess where the ball went?

Thompkins on the right baseline. Thompkins turning for a half-hook. Thompkins making it a seven-point game.

Fox: “It was a called play and a big basket. We were going to him, and he made a player-of-the-year-type play.”

Some coaches outsmart themselves by eschewing their main man for fear of a defense overload. Fox sees it more simply: When you’ve got the best player on the floor, you get him the ball.

Thompkins: “He drew up the play. He’s a mastermind.”

Does the play have a name? Said Thompkins, smiling: “It does, but I can’t tell you.”

Whenever Kentucky comes to town, there’s going to be top-shelf talent on display. What was revelatory Saturday was that Georgia had just as many good players as the big-ticket Big Blue. Asked if this was an upset, Leslie said: “Not really. I knew had the tools to compete.”

Asked what he thought after he had watched tape of Kentucky: “I didn’t think we’d be totally outclassed.”

This team won’t be outclassed by anyone it sees. It has the players, it has the blend, and it darn sure has a coach. Georgia could/should be in the SEC East chase until the last dog dies, and don’t be surprised if the last dog standing is a Bulldog.

By Mark Bradley

228 comments Add your comment

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
7:48 pm

youre a helluva classy guy Mark

Hummon

January 8th, 2011
7:49 pm

Never done this . . . 1st?

Hummon

January 8th, 2011
7:50 pm

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
7:50 pm

the free throw shooting by Georgia was madness. they can’t always depend on that for wins though

D A Double U G

January 8th, 2011
7:51 pm

Good work by Fox and the Hounds.

Now how many days til’ Footballl??

D A Double U G

January 8th, 2011
7:52 pm

Did Tech win today????

NOPE. They lost to Mighty Boston College.

Hummon

January 8th, 2011
7:53 pm

But can we keep him?

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
7:53 pm

I’ll bet Kentucky doesn’t win a game this year when Lamb fouls out.

Remarkable

January 8th, 2011
7:55 pm

Mark, Isn’t it obvious that UGA is a basketball program on the rise and that Ga. Tech is a program spiraling down and out of control?

Boise Dawg

January 8th, 2011
7:55 pm

Congrats hoops dawgs! Great win over UK. I agree with your opinion Mark, it was a must win given the lack of any big non-conference wins. They will need to beat Tennesee and Florida at home was well and then steal a couple of road games… but this was big step towards March.

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
7:56 pm

free throws and defense were the keys to Georgia’s win today.

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
7:59 pm

and Mark Fox outcoached John Calipari

Curious George

January 8th, 2011
8:00 pm

Do we need to put you on a suicide watch after this loss, Mark?

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:02 pm

Hey, Georgia had 2 Marks in the Steg. One of them is a winner. the other, just sayin…

Headley Lamar

January 8th, 2011
8:02 pm

Get back to the ATL MB.

Storms a comin.

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:02 pm

curious, if you are referring to Richt, probably so

Bryan G.

January 8th, 2011
8:03 pm

Great win for Fox. Go Dawgs

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:04 pm

even Kathryn Richt isnt taking the calls from Marks Ford

Headley Lamar

January 8th, 2011
8:05 pm

Georgia basketball up

Football down

Who wudda thunk it?

LADawg

January 8th, 2011
8:06 pm

Careful now, we were ready to give Richt a lifetme contract after the first SEC championship with Donan’s player’s. OR, let’s pay Fox $3,000,000 per and become a basketball school.

Headley Lamar

January 8th, 2011
8:08 pm

Fox is a great X O guy.

Weve been saying for years. All that talent in the state of Georgia. If Fox can turn this thing around long term. Get kids wanting to go to UGA.

There is no ceiling for this program.

padre

January 8th, 2011
8:09 pm

wow-we are a basketball school—we must keep fox–no doubt other basketball schools will seek to snatch him away- imagine what this will do for recruiting. unbelievable turn around. all due to coaching.

J Clay

January 8th, 2011
8:09 pm

Great win today…think we need 9 more to get a bid….need to go 10-6 in conference considering our OOC schedule was not very tough (lost to the 2 best teams)…Regardless, a great day to be a Dawg – which we have not been able to say much lately

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:09 pm

McGarity saw what a winner can do today

oldbird

January 8th, 2011
8:09 pm

I remember when 4 of the 5 players on the first team all SEC team were from Georgia, and none of them went to UGA. Making the NCAA tourney a few years in a row will change that. If we can keep Fox, we will become a powerhouse. Tons of BBall talent in this state.

J Clay

January 8th, 2011
8:10 pm

Unfortunately, I am guessing we lose Coach Fox after this season. Hope McGarity will give him some serious $ to stay

lagdawg

January 8th, 2011
8:10 pm

Great win for the Dawgs. Now, I hope that the local talent and the talent all over can see how great of a coach Mark Fox is. I know it is early in the season but, the Dawgs look really good right now. We still have to work on holding onto leads but, it looks like we are finally on the right path to success. UGA needs to lock Coach Fox into a long term contract to keep him in place. With a couple of great recruting classes, we can be competing for a SEC title and a NC. GREAT JOB COACH FOX!!!!!!!

Herschel Talker

January 8th, 2011
8:11 pm

MB:

Indeed, very well said. At least one coach in Athens named Mark is a stud. Mark Fox is the man! FIRE MARK RICHT

HT

Biff

January 8th, 2011
8:11 pm

Time for DRad to get a real coach as well or go back to LSU

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:11 pm

LA, Richt had Donnan’s players, state talent, and all the money in Georgia. Mark Fox started from zip. Chan Gailey could have won a few games as UGA football coach

Dannyboy

January 8th, 2011
8:14 pm

Remarkable, it pains me to say this as a GT alumnus, but you are correct. GT basketball is in BIG trouble, and we’ll have to pay 7+ million to get out of it.

There is no way UGA or GT should ever struggle in basketball. There’s too much talent in this state. Both our programs could be powerhouses on the talent in this state alone….just like in football. I’ve always thought that UGA b-ball is a sleeping giant because it’s academic requirements are not as hard at GT’s, and it has more academic selection than GT. Hopefully, both programs will benefit from all the talent that develops in this state one day.

rxdawg

January 8th, 2011
8:14 pm

Let’s not go too overboard just yet. This was a big win, but GA matches up well man to man with KY, probably will match up well with them again in 3 weeks unless Cal teaches the Cats to play zone…Let’s see how well we match up against teams like Vandy and Tennessee who are a little older and who rely on execution a little more and and rely on athleticism a little less. Hopefully UT will play us more like they did in their loss to Oakland than their wins against Nova and Pitt…

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:15 pm

the Dogs made spam out of Lamb today

anotherdawg

January 8th, 2011
8:16 pm

It’s been a great day! Dawgs win big basketball game, and Dawgs get big football commitment. Plus, what happed to dem aints? Wonder if they posed for pictures on the Seahawk logo? lol

LADawg

January 8th, 2011
8:16 pm

Look what coaching players up can do if they are willing to compete. Recruits with lots of stars are great unless they are coming to Georgia to take dance classes so they can laugh and giggle on the sidelines like school children during games.

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:17 pm

Jets vs Colts. who do you like Mark

St. Clarkston

January 8th, 2011
8:17 pm

I’ll be overjoyed with a 20 win regular season, a good conference tournament showing and a couple of wins in the NCAA ’s. Just keep moving forward.

D A Double U G

January 8th, 2011
8:18 pm

We will know if it’s for real after the game IN Nashville this Tuesday.

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:19 pm

challenge by colts 90 seconds into the game

Carlton

January 8th, 2011
8:21 pm

Wow-way to go Dawgs..I hate Calipari and I’m glad he could eat some pompous Cat a$$ tonight. And about those Aint’s..it’s so glad to know we won’t be hearing from their fans on our blogs for the next 9-10 months, ahhh..relief!

LakeDawg

January 8th, 2011
8:22 pm

Mark, you are a very good writer. That’s why I like reading your columns. However, you’re rarely right about anything. When UGA was searching for a coach, you and everyone else thought they should go for the coach Bama got. I wasn’t that impressed with his offense at VCU. You trashed the Fox hire and I wondered why. He was an unknown, but a had a good resume. I had a gut feeling he was a good hire. When you and others trashed the hire, that automatically put me in Fox’s corner, because I knew none of you knew what you were talking about even if you all turned out to be right. Fox has turned out better than I thought he would. A great hire.

Carlton

January 8th, 2011
8:23 pm

Wow-great win by the Dags tonight! I’m glad Calipari could eat some pompous Cat a$$ tonight!! Now, about those Aint’s..I’m so glad we won’t be hearing from their fans on our blogs for the next 8-9 months. Ahhh, relief is sweet!

defactodawg

January 8th, 2011
8:24 pm

Mark,

You are at your finest when writing about hoops. Regardless of one’s loyalties, your knowledge of the game and passion for its intricacies is revealed once January arrives and we fans are the better for it.

Thanks for your great work and this is one case where I’m glad you were wrong on the hire.

And oh yeah, Go Dawgs!

todd grantham

January 8th, 2011
8:25 pm

no offense so far

J Clay

January 8th, 2011
8:25 pm

He’s only a great hire if he stays…Don’t get me wrong he is a great coach and doing a wonder at Georgia BUT to be a great hire he needs to stick around a while

UGA Student

January 8th, 2011
8:26 pm

I think the announcers could have married and made love to Calipari with the way they were talking about him.

Finally, Georgia gets the credit they deserved. Fox finally brought discipline to these boys… something Felton never did!

kral

January 8th, 2011
8:27 pm

just one word off. coord.. 96 is quite afew..comparing richt down years to Foxes momentum is cheap chiiit..thank you Dawgs for a great win hope all our athl.. teams are successful..i am not a fly-by -nite urr

kral

January 8th, 2011
8:28 pm

oh, i’ sorry you are the def.. corrdinator..bullll chittttttt

Hoops Dawg

January 8th, 2011
8:29 pm

Don’;t know whether anyone caught it Mark but Price (unfortunately) is a senior and, hence, not in the same recruiting class as Trey, Travis and Dustin. Our guard play exceeded my expectations today and was a huge reason we won the game. We were so outsized up front that I had thought the Catz would rain 3s on us. DIDN’T HAPPEN!!!

Bravesfan79

January 8th, 2011
8:31 pm

As a longtime hardcore GT hoops fan, i gotta say its nice to see a good coach in the state getting the best of his players. Go UGA.. win the SEC! And i dont think ive really