I'm not totally sure yet, but it feels like Georgia's upset win over the Big Ten school is a huge stepping stone for Fox and his basketball Dawgs. Again, I preface all of this by saying that I think this is the Hobnail Boot… but I'm not sure yet. One thing I am certain of – this was a different team than the one I saw a week ago in New York City struggling to make a flight out of Gotham to get back in time for finals.
When I left Madison Square Garden last week I felt certain Georgia still had a ways to go. I still feel that way, but one game can change a lot. This game, this second half performance and this win is probably enough to slingshot Georgia into a decent basketball season. No one is going to confuse this team with Kentucky… that I am sure of, but they showed tonight, in front of a hostile crowd, just what they are capable of.
Georgia's big men came to play – and that's going to be their only hope from here on out. They outrebounded Illinois, which claimed the "home" crowd even though they were umpteen states away from their home. Georgia also limited any runs by the opposition by answering scores with scores.
Trey Thompkins, who didn't start the game, did what big players do at the end of games… he closed the game out for the Dawgs. He hit free throws at the end of the game… he didn't let Georgia falter – and everyone knows how good Georgia can be at faltering. Travis Leslie, who has the most amazing dunks of any player in a Georgia uniform since some guy named Dominique, played like a wild man. His blocks intimidated Illinois, and his dunks had me worried about the well being of the rims.
Georgia's offense was about the same the entire game, but the defense was better in the second half than it was in the first – and that made a big difference. All of that combined made for a big win… and very encouraging win… a Hobnail win…?
Let me stop here before I get ahead of myself and make a couple come-back-to-reality points. 1. Thompkins can't win every game for Georgia… he's going to need some consistent offensive help. It's obvious that hasn't happened at least four times this season 2. Georgia is still limited on the offensive side of the ball, so the defense is going to have to play well all of the time. 3. The schedule and SEC East is brutal (Kentucky should be playing in the D-League not the SEC).
With all of that said it must also be noted that on a day where most of the SEC East took it on the chin – South Carolina lost to Wofford today; Florida lost to Richmond; and Southern Cal relentlessly pounded Tennessee – Georgia beat a legit program from a legit conference. If that's not encouraging I don't know what is.