Sending The Seniors Out With A Win

ATHENS – Chris Barnes high-fived a few fans as he made the postgame walk to the tunnel for the last time. His fellow senior Jeremy Price did the same, cradling the basketball that was his gift on this night of good feelings.

But it wasn't all perfect for the Georgia men's basketball team on Wednesday night: Inside that locker room star forward Trey Thompkins, who may also have played his final home game, was being treated for an injury.

Georgia's 73-53 win over LSU may prove to be enough to wrap up an NCAA at-large berth. At a minimum it provided some cushion, which it will need if Thompkins has to miss any of the next few games.

Thompkins, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, has been dealing with a toe injury this week, and after the game Fox wasn't optimistic about Thompkins making the trip for Saturday's game at Alabama.

"I'm not sure to be honest with you if he'll make it to the weekend," Fox said. "We've gotta get him healthy. The poor kid's been hurt the entire year."

The Bulldogs (20-9 overall, 9-6 in the SEC) could at least be heartened by how they played without him, and that an NCAA bid may be close to fruition.

Fox wasn't assuming anything about his team's chances, but he was adamant that his team had done enough to earn a bid.

"Nine wins with a chance of 10 in this league, OK? Twenty wins in the regular season. A good nonconference resume'," he said. "I wouldn't sit here and tell you that we're in the NCAA tournament, that we can be satisfied with where we sit. Now if I were sitting here with the selection committee, with some other coaches, I'd argue all day for our team. You're darn right I'd argue all day for our team."

LSU head coach Trent Johnson, a close friend of Fox, said the Bulldogs were a tournament team "two weeks ago."

"I don't know what everyone is worrying about," Johnson said. "There's no question to me."

Officially, the win also gave Georgia its first 20-win season since 1997-98. The 2001-02 team went 22-10, but that was vacated a year later because of the Tony Cole investigation.

The win ensured Georgia a winning league record, and moved it into a three-way tie for second place in the SEC East. But in the muddled division picture, the Bulldogs could still be seeded anywhere from second to fifth.

They could also end up facing LSU again next week in the first round, depending on how things play out. The Tigers (11-19, 3-12) are tied with Auburn for the worst record in the SEC, and began the day with an RPI rank of 206.

But the Tigers jumped out to a 13-4 lead on Georgia, the first time in about a month that Georgia found itself down early. But the Bulldogs rallied to lead at halftime for the eighth straight game.

Dustin Ware was a big reason, hitting three 3s during a 15-2 run. It also helped that the Tigers went 9 minutes and 9 seconds without making a field goal.

The Bulldogs quickly extended the lead to double figures in the second half on Ware's fourth 3-pointer. And a Travis Leslie 3 made it 47-32.

From there, the seniors took the stage.

At one point Price fed a no-look pass on the break to Barnes, who dunked it home while being fouled.

"That was a funny moment. For him to get an assist, it's something very rare," Barnes said. (Price actually had two assists in the game, bringing his season total to 18.)

When Price was taken out in the final minute, he soaked in the moment by leaning down and kissing the "G" halfcourt logo. Price said he discussed the court-kiss on Wednesday morning with walk-on teammate Matt Bucklin, who urged him to do it.

"I was just looking to please the crowd," Price said. "That was just a sign of affection. This is the last time I go out at Stegeman Coliseum. It was so much fun here. I had a good time my whole time here."

Barnes kiddingly said he felt a bit upstaged by Price.

"Originally that was my idea," Barnes said. "I had talked about doing it. I was gonna do it after the game. But when he did it, when he got subbed out. I thought about running into the crowd, but my legs started hurting. I'm not as young as I used to be."

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