In what has to be one of the more startling developments among SEC teams in the early season, one of the hottest teams at the Christmas break was Georgia.
The Bulldogs, who had dropped their previous two games against Virginia Tech and St. John's by double digits, have won their past two outings -- and not because they just hit a soft spot in their schedule.
They came back from a 10-day layoff following the loss to St. John's with a gutty performance in a 70-67 victory over Illinois.
The game was played in Duluth, Ga., about 44 miles from the Georgia campus, which would seem to favor the Bulldogs. But that wasn't the case.
The crowd of 4,008 seemed to be heavily in support of the Illini, who entered the game with an 8-2 record.
But the Bulldogs hung tough, leading throughout much of the second half and then overcoming a one-point deficit with four unanswered points over the final 22 seconds.
The Bulldogs followed their most significant win of the early season with a 77-60 victory over Florida Atlantic, overcoming a one-point halftime deficit behind a 35-point night from sophomore Trey Thompkins.
"I wasn't real pleased with how we started the game," coach Mark Fox said, "but we came off with the big win."
The Bulldogs will have a week to get ready for their next outing. They are host to Pepperdine on Dec. 30.
--Sophomore F Trey Thompkins had a career-night in the win over Florida Atlantic, scoring 35 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. It was the biggest scoring night for a Bulldog since Litterial Green scored 35 against Florida on Feb. 12, 1991.
"I said to my assistants that Trey should get 40 points and I think he should have gotten 40, to be honest with you," coach Mark Fox said. "He certainly carried us at certain points during the game."
Thompkins missed two practices the week before the Illinois game after having wisdom teeth extracted and didn't start against the Illini, but he played 29 minutes and led the Bulldogs with 21 points.
--C Albert Jackson, who was recovering from a hand injury early in the season, had 14 combined rebounds in the wins over Illinois and Florida Atlantic. He isn't scoring big -- a 3.3 points per game average over his five starts -- but the 6-11 senior is giving the Bulldogs an inside presence they lacked.
JANUARY AT A GLANCE: The Bulldogs have two tough outings coming up to complete the non-conference portion of their schedule when they go to Missouri on Jan. 2 and play host to Georgia Tech on Jan. 5. SEC play begins with a trip to Kentucky on Jan. 9. The Bulldogs have only two conference foes at home in the first month (Ole Miss on Jan. 13 and Tennessee on Jan. 23) and must go to Mississippi State, Florida and South Carolina in addition to the opener at Kentucky.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This was a terrific win for our team and our program. We beat a team that I have a lot of respect for." -- Coach Mark Fox, after Georgia's win over Illinois.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: Things got a bit brighter for the Bulldogs with the gritty win over Illinois. The Bulldogs could have faltered down the stretch when they lost a nine-point lead over the final five minutes, but instead they responded by scoring four unanswered points over the last 22 seconds. With the ensuing home win over Florida Atlantic, the Bulldogs improved to 6-4.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Trey Thompkins, F Travis Leslie, C Albert Jackson, G Ricky McPhee, G Dustin Ware. Key Subs -- F Chris Barnes, F Jeremy Price, F Drazen Zlovaric, G Vincent Williams, G DeMario Mayfield.
St. John's 66, Georgia 56
Georgia 70, Illinois 67
Georgia 77, Florida Atlantic 60
Georgia 64, Pepperdine 47
GAME PREVIEW: at Missouri, Saturday, Jan. 2
vs. Georgia Tech, Tuesday, Jan. 5
at Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 9
vs. Ole Miss, Wednesday, Jan. 13
--Sophomore F Trey Thompkins was one of three players in the SEC in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding through games of Dec. 27. Thompkins (17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds) was seventh in scoring and sixth in rebounding. LSU's Tasmin Mitchell (fifth in scoring, third in rebounding), and Kentucky's Patrick Patterson (sixth and fourth) were the other two in the top 10 of both categories.
--G Dustin Ware was hitting 82.9 percent of his free throws (29 of 35) to rank fourth in the SEC through his first 10 games.
--Despite standing only 6-4, sophomore F Travis Leslie is averaging 5.6 rebounds per game, which puts him 18th in the SEC.