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Rewind: Bulldogs’ grind out 3rd-place finish in SEC

Marcus Thornton (2) and the Georgia Bulldogs out-toughed Auburn and Cinmeon Bowers for a critical SEC victory on Saturday. (Auburn photo by Zach Bland)

Marcus Thornton (2) and the Georgia Bulldogs out-toughed Auburn and Cinmeon Bowers for a critical SEC victory on Saturday. (Auburn photo by Zach Bland)

THE MONDAY REWIND:

1. The Georgia Bulldogs flat out got it done. After tripping up and falling to Auburn and South Carolina in back-to-back home games in mid-February, the Bulldogs rebounded to win four of their last five games and darn near knocked off No. 1 Kentucky in the process. The regular-season culminated with a gutsy 64-61 avenging win over Auburn on Saturday.

The end result is a 20-10 record and, at 11-7, a tie for third in the SEC. Based on the four-team tiebreaker with LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M the Bulldogs received the No. 3 seed for this week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville and the coveted “double-bye” that goes with it.

That’s particularly important this year for two reasons. One, it puts Georgia in the bracket opposite of mighty Kentucky, which is trying to make history as the first team since Indiana in 1976 to finish the season undefeated. And, two, the Bulldogs need all the time they can get for Kenny Gaines to get well again.

2. Gaines was unable to play against the Tigers this past weekend, which only reinforces what an enormous accomplishment that victory was for the Bulldogs. Gaines is Georgia’s No. 2 scorer and Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings on Monday called him “one of the top perimeter defenders in the league.”

Gaines

Gaines

However, Gaines sprained his left foot in the Thursday practice before last Saturday’s game and his status heading into championship week is uncertain.

Georgia coach Mark Fox said during the SEC coaches teleconference call on Monday he was “pretty confident” Gaines would recover but called it “critical” that Bulldogs received the double-bye into Friday’s quarterfinals because of the extra time to heal. His status at this point has to be considered questionable.

Getting production out of Juwan Parker against Auburn this past Saturday was key to the victory. Getting more in the SEC tournament will be important as well. (AP photo)

Getting production out of Juwan Parker against Auburn this past Saturday was key to the victory. Getting more in the SEC tournament will be important as well. (AP photo)

3. Also at issue for Nashville will be the health of Juwan Parker. The junior small forward came through in a big way for Georgia by grinding out his most minutes — 15 –since returning from an Achilles injury on Feb. 28. That injury knocked him out of 12 games and will require surgery after the season.

Nevertheless, he was able to contribute 4 points, 5 rebounds and 1 blocked shot in the win over Auburn. Now the question will be how well will he be able to recover that effort.

“It’s all how his body responds,” Fox said Saturday. “He felt better than he’s felt, but he still felt some pain. I really don’t know. We’ll see how his body responds and, obviously, we’ll let the trainers decide.”

4. The good news is, virtually every bracketologist has the Bulldogs in the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens in the SEC Tournament. Georgia actually dropped from 35 to 40 in RPI after the win over Auburn because of what happened to some other teams the Bulldogs have beaten this season.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi current has the Bulldogs as a No. 8 seed in his bracket and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has them in at No. 10 seed. But all that is subject to change based on what Georgia does in the SEC tournament and what numerous other teams do in their respective tournaments over the next week.

Here’s what’s important to know about Georgia making the NCAA Tournament: It will be just the 12th time in UGA history that the Bulldogs have gone “dancing,” and the first since 2011. Georgia would have also gone in 2003 but the school pulled out due to the ongoing investigation of the program under coach Jim Harrick.

So it’s an accomplishment to be appreciated, and doubly so considering all the injuries and adversity the team has had to overcome. Few seem to recall at this point that Georgia played this season with Brandon Morris, last year’s starting small forward. He was dismissed from the team over the summer after his arrest for marijuana possession.

Coach Scott Strickin and the Diamond Dogs had to fight to take two of three from Longwood University this past weekend. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Coach Scott Strickin and the Diamond Dogs had to fight to take two of three from Longwood University this past weekend. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

5. As for Georgia’s other sports, it was a fairly good weekend. The baseball Bulldogs managed to overcome a loss to Longwood, a small private college in Virginia, on Friday to win the next two and take the series. Georgia (10-5) went 4-1 last week and has a two-game series with Appalachian State (5-9) on Tuesday and Wednesday. … Georgia’s No. 4-ranked men’s tennis team completed another perfect weekend in SEC play with a 4-2 win over LSU Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The Bulldogs (11-2, 4-0 SEC) also beat Texas A&M 4-1 on Friday. …

The No. 6-ranked women’s tennis team (10-4, 3-1) split a pair of matches in Alabama, losing to the ninth-ranked Crimson Tide 5-2 on Friday and beating Auburn 4-1 on Sunday. … Coach Andy Landers’ Lady Bulldogs suffered an embarrassing 75-41 loss to No. 5 Tennessee in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament to finish the season at 19-12. Georgia will likely miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years. … The women’s golf team finished 16th in the Rucker Invitational in South Carolina.

 

 

 


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