Thompkins' Double Double Leads to Win

ATHENS – Trey Thompkins admits, he was getting a bit frustrated.

The free throws wouldn't fall. The scoring chances weren't there. His team, which had held a one-point lead at the half, had seen Alabama sink one bucket after another to go up by double digits.

But his coach and his teammates kept reminding him that the tide would soon turn – and that's exactly what happened.

Thompkins finished Saturday's game with a flurry, knocking down a series of big shots down the stretch to lead a dramatic come-from-behind 76-70 win and finish with a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds.

"My teammates had confidence in me and they kept coming to me. They told me to be resilient," Thompkins said. "We had the eye of the tiger tonight. Things weren't going for us, but we didn't settle."

With 7:37 left, Georgia trailed by nine and Thompkins had been a shell of his usual self. He was 0-for-4 from the free-throw line and had just 10 points in the game. But while head coach Mark Fox sent a message to his team that plenty of time remained for a comeback, Thompkins took the message personally.

The sophomore scored 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds during a furious five-minute stretch, helping the Bulldogs turn that nine-point deficit into a four-point lead.

For the game, Thompkins finished 9-of-12 from the field, and his 21/17 line was the best by a Georgia player since Jumaine Jones posted 26 points and 18 boards in 1998.

"Trey's invested a lot," Fox said. "He's a winner. We've talked a lot with our younger guys that they've played so many minutes that they have to start playing like upperclassmen. He finished this game like an upperclassmen and made some big plays down the stretch."

While Thompkins keyed the Bulldogs' late rally, his energy merely reflected the team's resilience.

All season, Georgia has been stellar from the free-throw line, leading the SEC by connecting on 73 percent of their shots from the stripe. In the early going against Alabama, however, the Bulldogs were a disaster, hitting just two of their first 12 free throws.

But while the easy points proved difficult, it was the hard work on the boards and in the paint that Georgia used to swing the game. The Bulldogs finished with a 39-27 edge in rebounding and held Alabama to just 11-of-28 shooting in the second half.

"(Fox) has preached to us that the offense is going to be hot and cold, but one thing that has to stay consistent is defense, defense and rebounding," said guard Ebuka Anyaorah. "That's what's going to win games. Dunks are nice. It sells tickets. But when we get down, rebound, keep them to one shot, we can beat anybody."

Eventually Georgia's free throws began to fall, and Fox's game plan finally cracked the Crimson Tide's press. That's when the run began.

The Bulldogs outscored Alabama 22-6 during Thompkins' torrid stretch, while Travis Leslie provided additional offense and Dustin Ware capped the comeback with huge 3-pointer that put Georgia up by five with just 1:24 to play.

"The second half, they went on a little run, and we missed some easy baskets," said guard Ricky McPhee, who finished with 13 points for Georgia. "But we came back and kept fighting, and we were able to pull it off down the stretch."

As if for emphasis, the scoring binge came to a raucous finale when Leslie found backup forward Chris Barnes alone under the hoop on a fast break for a dunk that sent the Stegeman crowd into a frenzy.

"I hadn't dunked in a long time, so it felt so good," Barnes said. "It was something that got the fans excited at the end of the game, and it felt good to get that win."

For Georgia, it was win No. 12 on the season, which hardly makes it a tournament-caliber team, but it did represent a milestone, matching the Bulldogs' win total from a year ago. It also gave them their fourth SEC win of the season, one more than they had last year, and it was their first win over an SEC West opponent since the team closed out its miracle run in the conference tournament by beating Arkansas in 2008.

"This, for our program, is progress," Fox said. "Every game is a chance to make progress. … If you look back to when we started, Stegeman wasn't a home-court advantage. I heard somebody say, ‘Let's tear it down, it's too old.' Well, it's been pretty good to us. We have to keep making steps forward, and (Saturday) was a step forward."

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