NASHVILLE — It was close to 1 a.m. today when Georgia’s basketball team left Bridgestone Arena. Several players said they were headed back to the hotel to immediately start preparing for tonight’s game against Vanderbilt.
We’ll get to that matchup in a minute. But first a few things you should know, if you don’t already, about Thursday’s late win over Arkansas in the opening round of the SEC Tournament:
Before Thursday night -– actually, the game ended early Friday morning Eastern time — the Bulldogs were 0-12 outside Georgia and 1-5 against SEC West opponents this season. The farthest from Athens they had won a game was Gwinnett Arena, where they beat Illinois in December.
The win over Arkansas, you’d have to say, was a breakthrough victory.
You can find the final version of my game story here, but a few points bear reiterating:
“We understand we’re going to have to come with every punch we have because they’re going to play us hard,” Thompkins said. “We’re going to focus on them when we get back to the hotel as a team.”
It should be an interesting game. (And it’ll be another late one, scheduled to start at 9:45 p.m. Eastern but likely to start around 10 p.m.) Vanderbilt is a definite NCAA Tournament team, ranked No. 20 in the nation. But Georgia beat the Commodores by 14 points in Athens on Feb. 6 and lost to them by two points in overtime in Nashville on Feb. 24. And Vanderbilt players, in unusual candor, admitted earlier this week they’d prefer to play Arkansas than Georgia in the SEC quarterfinals.
“Georgia matches up well with us,” Vanderbilt forward Andre Walker told The Tennessean. “They have big strong guys. They’re really deep in the post. We haven’t given them our best shot, and they’ve played us really well.”
Thompkins and Travis Leslie, who combined for 44 points Thursday, came up big in both regular-season games against Vanderbilt. In the victory in Athens, they scored 17 points apiece. At Vandy, Leslie scored 22 and Thompkins 21.
So . . . what did you think of last night’s game? And what about tonight’s?