Dawgs Sloppy, but Beat Santa Clara

ATHENS – Trey Thompkins had been waiting so long, when the moment finally came and he took his first steps onto the court, it seemed a bit surreal.

"It was just like, oh man, here it is. No turning back now," said the freshman forward who sat out Georgia's first four games with an ankle injury.

Once he found his groove, however, Thompkins showed why he was such a prized recruit out of high school and gave the Bulldogs a hint of what could be in store the rest of the season, chipping in 10 points and five blocks in 18 minutes of action in Georgia's 54-48 win over Santa Clara.

"When I took my first shot, I was pretty nervous," Thompkins said. "But I went down the other and to play D and got hit with an elbow, and it took me right in. I felt right at home."

Terrance Woodbury led all scorers with 14, and Albert Jackson added 12 for the Bulldogs in a game that showcased the Bulldogs' strong defense and underscored their scoring ineptitude throughout.

Thompkins first appearance of the season was the highlight, however, and while the results – including a 2-of-7 shooting performance – weren't necessarily pretty, he said it was exhilarating to simply have a chance to play.

"It gets frustrating (being injured) but finally being able to get out there and compete with my teammates, it's a blessing," Thompkins said.

The freshman had participated in just three practices all season due to a rash of injuries, most recently an ankle sprain that limited his mobility and has prevented him from properly conditioning.

Thompkins said he felt good enough to play last week against Presbyterian, but head coach Dennis Felton kept him out for precautionary reasons. When he entered the game Monday, Thompkins said he expected to play several short stints, but instead, Felton left him on the court for several minutes at a time.

"At first I felt a little winded, but once my second wind kicked in, I was full tilt. I was ready to go," Thompkins said.

Thompkins wasn't the only Georgia star to return to action Monday night. Jackson missed last Friday's game with an ankle injury of his own, but returned against Santa Clara to lead a stingy defensive effort guarding the Broncos' top player, center John Bryant.

Georgia held Santa Clara to 28 percent scoring and forced the Broncos into 25 turnovers, while Jackson kept Bryant from catching entry passes for easy baskets.

"Our aggressiveness was able to take away enough passes and cuts that they had to improvise a lot more than they'd like to," Felton said.

Bryant led the Broncos with 12 points and 13 rebounds, but took just eight shots in the game. The performance by Georgia's defense against a strong big man was a key building block, Jackson said.

"We're going to play against a lot of good post players, and we've got to be able to shut guys like that down. I think this is just a building point for us, and we're going to get a lot more confidence now."

Georgia's offense wasn't much better than Santa Clara. The Bulldogs shot 35.5 percent for the game, but was able to use the strong defensive effort to set up the offense to the tune of 22 points off turnovers.

"Our offense still has to get better," Felton said. "We're still missing some shots that will hopefully start to fall at a better rate as we go along."

Rather than focusing on the missed shots, Felton said improving as a team is the Bulldogs' top priority.

For the first time this season, Georgia had its full compliment of weapons, and Thompkins said the production will only get better as his game rounds into shape.

"I'm just going to go in the gym," Thompkins said, "get lots of shots up, keep conditioning on my own so I can be in the condition to produce the way my teammates know I can and the way my coaches need me to."

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