I’ll fully admit that I didn’t expect much out of the Georgia Bulldogs when they took on the high-scoring LSU Tigers this Thursday. UGA had lost 3 games in a row on absolutely dreadful shooting performances, and LSU was coming into Athens riding a two-game winning streak, including a win over No. 11 ranked Kentucky. It looked like a mismatch on paper, as LSU normally scores over 75 points a game, while Georgia has been struggling to put 70 on the board in any of their contests. However, as the old cliche goes, “That’s why they play the game.”
The Bulldogs came out gunning in the first half and really took the Tigers by surprise. Charles Mann showed up with 10 points and 4 assists in the half, while Nemanja Djurisic came off the bench with 9 points of his own. The big difference for Georgia was cutting down on the turnovers, something that plagued them in their road losses. UGA only committed 2 turnovers in the first half, which is their lowest total so far in SEC play. LSU floundered from the field, but Andre Stringer kept the Tigers in the game with 2 key 3-pointers and 11 points. Without Stringer, LSU would have been run out of the building in the first half. As it stood, UGA had a 13 point lead going into halftime.
LSU came out hot in the second half, outscoring UGA 9-4 in the first 3 minutes and cutting the lead down to just 8. The officiating quickly came into question as both teams got very physical in the press, and Mark Fox got T’d up for complaining to the refs. Whereas the Dawgs were very clean with the basketball in the first half, the second half was mired in terrible turnovers due to the daunting LSU press. Within 4 minutes, LSU had taken the UGA lead down to 5. Tensions ran high in Stegeman Arena. The game easily could have slipped away from the Dawgs in those early moments of the second half, but UGA wasn’t going to let that happen.
One of the problems with the new officiating emphasis in college basketball this year is that it turns almost every game into a free throw shooting contest. With 13 minutes left in the second half, UGA was in the double bonus. It slowed the game down considerably, but it also gave UGA a big advantage as they shot over 40 free throws in the match. It also meant that one of LSU’s best players, forward Johnny O’Bryant, had to sit most of the game due to foul trouble. That would prove huge for the Bulldogs since they made their big runs while O’Bryant was off the floor.
Georgia suffered a scary moment in the second half when Charles Mann went down hard on his hip after getting blocked on the way to the rim. He had to come off the floor to be looked at by the training staff, and he was holding his side and grimacing the entire time. However, the Dawgs weren’t going to let that stop them as J.J. Frasier came into the game for Mann and started burying 3′s. With 5 minutes left, Mann came back into the game much to the relief of the Georgia fans. From that point on, the Dawgs cruised to what looked like an easy victory in the box score, but was actually a very tough match.
The player of the game was Marcus Thornton, who went 6-8 from the field, had 15 total points, and 9 rebounds. A close second was Djurisic, who finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds. The key difference was that Thornton had 4 of his rebounds on the offensive glass, which helped the Dawgs get much needed put-back points. Georgia won’t have much time to savor the victory as they face off Saturday against a Texas A&M team that’s had a rough time in the SEC this season. Hopefully, the Dawgs can continue their winning ways and take their SEC record to 6-4 this weekend.