Let’s be clear here… Georgia needs to figure out how to close games out better. What had been a ten-point lead with less than three minutes to play was narrowed to two points with less than 30 seconds to play. This is officially a troubling trend for these Bulldogs.
The mistakes in the final minutes of games is at its best careless and at its worst dumb.
But winning beats losing any day of the week. Starting the SEC slate off 0-3 was simply a non-starter, and Georgia played like it tonight in Nashville. This is the first time Mark Fox has won at Vanderbilt. It is also the first time in the last eight tries that Georgia has beaten Vanderbilt - both of those facts seem difficult to believe.
Georgia won the game because it was super hot from three-point land. Georgia hit more threes than it has in any game this season (ten), and it landed nearly 60% of the threes taken on the night. Georgia shouldn’t fall in love with the long-range jumper, because you can’t rely on the three-point shot to win you games. No, you can’t rely on it, but you can use it as an aid if you are hot - and Georgia was hot tonight.
How often does a team shoot better from beyond the arc than inside it? Not often, but Georgia did tonight (3-pt 59%; FG 49%).
Lest we forget: Marcus Thornton - who is equipped with the ability to score with his left hand - played outstanding. Thornton understands how to play basketball. I’m not sure I can say that about everyone on Georgia’s roster, which can be far too loose with the ball and take silly shots at seemingly the most inopportune times.
How Mark Fox has any hair is beyond me. I would have pulled it all out by now considering the thoughtless hijinks going on when the Bulldogs “possess” the basketball. We should just expect turnovers from this bunch, because they don’t respect the basketball well enough right now. Yes, they only had 11 turnovers tonight - about half of what they had in the loss at Baton Rouge - but those turnovers late nearly cost them the game (again).
Thornton seems to understand his game. Look at his shot selection - all in the paint except three shots, one of which was a three pointer. If the entire roster played like Thornton does, well… if Sunday were Monday then it would be the next day.
This was as close to a must-win game as it gets for a team in the middle of January. The Bulldogs avoided a two-way tie with lowly Mississippi State for last place in the SEC. Now, thanks to the 70-67 win over Vandy, Georgia can claw its way back to the top of the standings and into the NCAAs with a win over Florida, which tips at 2 PM on Saturday on CBS.
There are going to be big back-to-back games this season, but I’m not sure there are as many situations where the season can change like this two-game stretch. Georgia, with one player out with a concussion because he was hit by a car (literally - he was hit by a car), and a few more sidelined with some more injures, can emerge from what has to be considered a brutal four-game stretch to open conference play a respectable 2-2.
Beat Florida, and this team can breathe again. Lose, and… well… Look, this is sports. You have to win. And beating the Gators, to me, sets this team on a path to the NCAAs that’s going to be difficult to get knocked off.
Yes, that’s how important Saturday’s game is. Florida, which has not had a great season so far, hosts Auburn in a game it should win Thursday night. That means Florida should be 3-0 and tied for first place with the unbeatable Cats of Kentucky. The Gators get a rather quick turnaround (fewer than 48 hours) to get ready to play their arch rivals.
That doesn’t stack up well for Florida.
Here’s what I say: Everyone start playing more like Marcus Thornton. Respect the basketball - at least respect possession of the basketball. And crash the boards hard. These Gators are good, but not great at rebounding. Georgia has shown it can beat anyone on the boards.
Do those things and Georgia can win.