March 19, 2011

Frantic finish falls short for Dawgs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There would be lower-bracket magic for Georgia as No. 7 seed Washington held off a frantic charge in the final seconds to eliminate the 10th-seeded Bulldogs from the NCAA Tournament Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, 68-65.

It was a crazy finish for sure.

Trailing by five points with 14 seconds following a pair of free throws by Isaiah Thomas, Georgia quickly pushed the ball up the court, with Trey Thompkins sinking a three-pointer with just seven seconds remaining.

After fouling C.J. Wilcox with 3.7 seconds, the Husky freshman missed his second free throw giving Georgia one final desperation shot.

Following a heave to Robinson, the ball defected off Thomas right into the hands of Travis Leslie][/db who attempted a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer, only to have the ball bank off the board and fall to the court, sending Washington (24-10) into Sunday's third-round game against North Carolina and Georgia (21-12) back to Athens.

"I saw that it fell out of Isaiah Thomas' hands. It was open and I went for it," Leslie said. "I tried to throw up a lucky shot. It just didn't fall."

Although the final score might not have ultimately been a surprise, the fact Georgia was able to do exactly what it had hoped in terms of controlling the tempo was.

Washington came in averaging almost 84 points per game, but were predominantly forced into a half-court game by the Bulldogs, who outshot the Huskies 46 to 43.3 percent and dominated on the boards, winning that battle 36-29.

But there was one huge problem.

Georgia committed 15 turnovers to just five for Washington, which led by as many as 10 points five times, the last with 2:03 to go in the game.

"I felt like for us to have a chance to win, we had to play this way (style). It doesn't mean if we got the game to this way we were automatically going to win, but it was something that was necessary for us to give ourselves a chance," head coach [db]Mark Fox said. "We got the game we wanted, but we didn't defend enough in the second half. We gave up almost 54 percent (shooting by Washington) in the second half and we didn't rebound it well enough. So even though we got the game like we wanted to, you still have to make the plays at both ends and we didn't do that."

Thompkins led the Bulldogs with 26 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Robinson and Leslie with 12 each. Senior Jeremy Price tossed in 11 in his final game.

The Huskies were led by Thomas who scored 19 points, 15 in the second half, three coming on a trio of free throws on Washington's first possession of the second half after Ware fouled the Husky star attempting a three-pointer.

"We got him started," Fox said. "You cannot do that against a quality player in an NCAA game. That's a tough play."

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was obviously pleased with the win; especially since his team did it in a way his own critics thought would be difficult to do - win a half-court game.

"For me as a coach, you better have thick skin. You can't get caught up in criticism all the time," Romar said. "That's a good team. They executed very well, and if we wouldn't have executed we wouldn't have won the game."

The game was tied 28-all at the half as neither team got off to a particularly fast start, although it was the Bulldogs who opened with a 9-4 advantage on a jumper by Thompkins, until the Huskies answered with eight straight points to go up 12-9.

Three minutes later, Robinson's second three-pointer put Georgia back in front, sparking a 9-0 surge by the Bulldogs, capped by a Leslie slam at the 9:54 mark.

Georgia extended its lead to 23-16 when Thompkins connected for a three-pointer from the wing to just beat the shot clock.

But just when it appeared the Bulldogs were primed to close out the first half with a flourish, Washington answered, tallying 12 of the next 15 points to tie the score at 28, the final two points coming on a wonderful driving layup, who had just four points in the first half.

Thompkins, meanwhile, dominated for the Bulldogs, scoring 15 points while pulling down eight rebounds in the first 20 minutes of the game.

"That's a team that scores in bunches," Thompkins said. "They know their strengths. They came out in the second half and started knocking down shots. They were contested. That just shows the quality of shooters and the quality of team that they have."

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