Here are a few things to consider in advance of Friday night’s SEC tournament quarterfinal between Georgia and Ole Miss (9:30 p.m., SEC Network) at the Georgia Dome.
1. The Bulldogs (18-12) are the No. 3 seed after finishing in a tie for second in the regular season and getting a double-bye into this round. Ole Miss is the 6 seed and improved to 19-13 after beating Mississippi State 78-66 late Thursday night.
2. Georgia won the regular-season meeting 61-60 after Charles Mann made the second of two free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining. Kenny Gaines led the Bulldogs in scoring that night with 21 points, Mann added 17 with 12 coming on free throws and Marcus Thornton hauled in 11 rebounds.
3. Marshall Henderson led the Rebels with 24 points and drew the ire of the UGA home crowd with his late-game antics and posturing. Thornton was assessed a controversial technical foul when he was whistled for accidentally hitting Henderson in the mouth with an elbow with 1:55 remaining. Henderson’s free throws and another from Jarvis Summers on the ensuing possession gave Ole Miss a 57-55 lead with 1:52 to go.
4. Are you planning to go to tonight’s game? The SEC tournament would certainly appreciate it. For the first time since the tournament was renewed in 1979, fewer than 10,000 fans turned out for the each of the first two sessions. Attendance announced as 7,132 for Wednesday’s games and 9,308 on Thursday afternoon. They should be easy to come by.
5. Georgia coach Mark Fox is calling for the Bulldog Nation to come out in force. He said he was “sick of hearing about Catlanta” and the penchant of Kentucky fans to take over the venue. “It IS the Georgia Dome, so I hope that we’ll have representation of that,” he said.
As it turns, Kentucky plays LSU in the game immediately before Georgia-Ole Miss. The Bulldogs are certain to hear from the Big Blue Nation when they come out on the court.
6. Speaking of Georgia playing in Atlanta, that’s a good thing as it will be a homecoming for all five of the Bulldogs’ starters. Charles Mann (Milton High, Alpharetta), Kenny Gaines (Whitefield Academy, Atlanta), Marcus Thornton (Westlake High, Atlanta), Brandon Morris (Miller Grove, Lithonia) and Donte Williams (Miller Grove, Ellenwood) all grew up and prepped in Greater Atlanta. That’s something that Fox and the Bulldogs take pride in.
“There are a lot of good players from the city and we’ve got five of them that have become a good starting lineup for us,” Fox said. “I think that’s great. They’re all going to leave with a degree, so I think that’s great, too.”
7. Regardless of what happens in the SEC tournament and the rest of the postseason, Georgia has had a good season. The outlook was bleak before the season, when the Bulldogs were picked to finish 11th in the SEC; early in the season, when they started out 1-4; and before conference play began, when they limped in with a 6-6 record. But Georgia had to adjust to playing without SEC player of the year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who turned pro after his sophomore season, and obviously took advantage of a weakened SEC.
8. It remains to be seen if all that will buy any security for Fox, who has been at UGA for five seasons and now and has two left on his current contract. Clearly Fox is no longer in jeopardy of losing his job – something that seemed imminent the first of the year – but Athletic Director Greg McGarity is keeping his cards close to his vest with regard to any possible contract extensions.
“I’m not going anywhere on that,” McGarity said. “We’ll talk about basketball, evaluation, all that, once the season is over with. I’m not messing anything us. The less said by me the better. We’ve got too much good karma now to say anything. I’ll comment at the end of the year.”