March 13, 2010

Vandy knocks Dawgs out of SEC tourney

There will be no miracle surge through the SEC basketball tournament for Georgia this year.

Vanderbilt saw to that, dispatching the Bulldogs here at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Friday night 78-66 to advance to Saturday's semifinal round against Mississippi State.

Georgia ends its season with a 14-17 record.

"Vanderbilt came very determined to play tonight. You know, I think our team was excited about playing also, but they really out rebounded us in the first half, and that was a significant -- that had a significant impact on the ball game," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "We opened the second half with some competitive fight, got back in it, but we just couldn't. We played from behind all night. That's just so hard to do, especially on back to back nights."

Georgia certainly couldn't blame Travis Leslie for the 12-point defeat.

The Bulldog sophomore scored a career-high 34 points, followed by Trey Thompkins with 13, all in the second half.

John Jenkins paced the Commodores (24-7) with a career high 25, followed by Jermaine Beal with 16 and A.J. Ogilvy with 10.

The Commodores out-rebounded Georgia 49-32. In the two previous games between the two, Georgia held the rebounding advantage.

"We fought all year, but as a team, we expected to win some of those games. We never shortchanged ourselves on the fact that we were inexperienced with Coach's system or we were a young team," Thompkins said. "We came out to fight just like all our opponents did. We expected to win just like any other team would."

It just wasn't meant to be.

Georgia trailed 35-27 at the half, but quickly jumped back into the game, tallying the first five points of the second half - four courtesy of Thompkins - to climb within 35-33.

But the Bulldogs would get no closer.

After trading baskets, Vanderbilt went on to outscore Georgia 19-12 over the next six minutes, pushing its lead to double-digits at 56-45 with 9:13 to play.

It only got worse.

A jumper by Jenkins gave Vanderbilt its biggest advantage at 63-47 with 7:16 to play.
For senior guard Ricky McPhee, the game's final minutes were bittersweet.

A transfer from Gardner-Webb, McPhee didn't even start for his former squad. But this year at Georgia, averaged almost 35 minutes per contest.

"I mean, my experiences over this last year have been awesome. I'm going to cherish them for the rest of my life," McPhee said. "I just want to appreciate the Coach for giving a chance for me this year and having the opportunity to play."

As for Thompkins, the former Wesleyan star has yet to officially say whether or not he will return for his junior year.

However, when asked about the tandem he and Leslie have become, Thompkins sounded like someone who wasn't ready for the relationship to to end.

"Travis and I, we work together very well. He's one of the most athletic people I've ever played with. He compliments me because of the things that I like to do on the floor and the things that he likes to do on the floor," Thompkins said. "We credit most of it to Coach's system because it has us all over the floor, so it's pretty hard to guard us."

NOTES: With the loss, Georgia moves to 38-49 all-time in SEC tournament play. The Bulldogs also are 1-5 all-time against Vanderbilt in SEC tourney action. Georgia goes to 1-3 all-time in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. … With the loss, Georgia also drops the season series 1-2 with the Commodores. Georgia lost at Vanderbilt 96-94 in overtime on Feb. 25 in Nashville and won a 72-58 decision in Athens on Feb. 6. … Of Leslie's career-high 34 points, 18 came in the second half. The total is tied for the eighth most ever in a SEC tourney game. … The Bulldogs made 40.7% of their field goals. … Trailing 23-16, Georgia went on a 9-0 run sparked by two Leslie baskets to take a 25-23 lead with 5:39 left in the half. … Leslie paced the Georgia attack entering halftime with 16 points. The rest of the squad had 11 total points. … Thompkins was 0-of-6 from the field in the first half. Thompkins' first basket came at the 19:06 mark. He added another basket with 18:19 left to cut the Commodore lead to 35-33. … Leslie topped his season high in points (23) at the 16:00 mark. His personal high (22) came vs. Vanderbilt on Feb. 25.

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