February 10, 2012

Thornton staying strong

As far as mid-season pick-me-ups go, Wednesday's 81-59 victory over Arkansas could not have come at a better time for Georgia, although perhaps nobody benefited more than Marcus Thornton.

It's been a tough year for the Bulldog sophomore, who has played with severe pain in his knees for basically the entire year.

The pain became so unbearable earlier this year that Thornton was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery, an operation that forced him to miss five games before coming back for the Jan. 18 encounter with Tennessee.

But despite his return, Thornton's balky knees have continued to plague him, limiting his success, before his 10-point performance against the Razorbacks put some pep back into what's been a gimpy step.

"He needed that, just because he's had such a tough year with the knees," head coach Mark Fox said. "The day before the game, he had a terrific practice on Monday, perhaps the best of the year and then on Tuesday the knee was agony. I told him, on days like this, we just need to shut it down. He was struggling on Tuesday, maybe as sore as it's been all year and then he comes out and plays well Wednesday. That was good medicine for him."

Thornton said Friday playing with pain has become something he's come to expect.

"If you play basketball, you're never 100 percent," Thornton said. "I just try not to worry about it. It's a long season; you've just got to keep pushing."

Fox just wants to make sure he doesn't push too much.

Considering Thornton isn't one to complain, Fox has to take matters into his own hands.

"I shut him down today (Friday) really," Fox said. "He'll shoot some free throws so the today's the day he needs to refresh."

Georgia (11-12, 2-7) travels to Starkville, Miss. Saturday for an afternoon game against 20th-ranked Mississippi State (19-5, 6-3).

"You can see it. He won't tell me it hurts; that's the problem. He's a hard-headed guy. I'll ask him how he's doing and he's like 'I'm fine.' He doesn't want to let you down so you just have to look at it and see how he's doing."

There were no issues against the Razorbacks.

Thornton actually made all four of his shots in the game, including his first two 3-pointers of the year.

"Once I saw that, I just thought to myself he's going to have a big game," teammate Donte Williams said. "He's really been battling that knee, but the more he plays the more confidence he's going to get."

Thornton hopes it's just the beginning.

"I just made a couple of shots; it's always good to see one or two go in," he said. "It was a fun game for the whole team, not just for me."

NOTES: Senior guard Gerald Robinson Jr., whose 27 points bested his own career high by five points. His 17 first-half points keyed Georgia against the Razorbacks and enabled the Bulldogs to post a relatively easy victory. The Nashville, Tenn., native turned 23 on Friday. … With his 27 points, Robinson (14.1 points per game) closed within freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for team scoring honors for the season. Caldwell-Pope currently leads them at 14.2 points per game, and also has team-high numbers in minutes (32.2 mpg and is the only Bulldog over 30 minutes per game), defensive rebounds (86), steals (42), shots taken (283) and 3-pointers taken (158). His rookie season-high of 25 points against Ole Miss on Jan. 21 marked the first time in 13 years a Bulldog freshman had scored that many in a single game. … Georgia travels to South Carolina on Wednesday before hosting Vanderbilt on Sunday, Feb. 19.