ATLANTA -- Facing perhaps a must-win, Georgia grabbed early control of the opening game of the SEC tournament and ran over the Tigers at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. With an RPI rating lower than No. 40, the Bulldogs seemed to be in OK shape for an NCAA at-large bid entering the SEC tourney. But a loss to the struggling Tigers, who won only four SEC regular-season games, might have been enough to knock them on the wrong side of the bubble.
Turning point: Auburn trimmed Georgia’s lead to 34-24 in the opening minute of the second half. But Georgia forwards Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie made 3-pointers on consecutive trips, giving the Bulldogs a 45-27 lead with 16:06 to go. It was never close the rest of the way.
Key player: Thompkins, a junior from nearby Lithonia, Ga., and a potential first-round pick in this summer’s NBA draft, had his best game in quite a while. The All-SEC choice scored 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. Thompkins, who was dogged by ankle injuries for much of the season, made a season-high three 3-pointers and was much more active.
Key stat: 39-29. Georgia had a big rebounding advantage and especially hurt the Tigers on the offensive glass, grabbing at least four boards off missed foul shots.
Miscellaneous: Leslie had his fifth double-double of the season, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds.
What’s next: The Bulldogs get a rematch with SEC West champion Alabama in Friday’s semifinals. The Crimson Tide defeated UGA 65-57 in the March 5 regular-season finale in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama might need to sweep two games against UGA to have a realistic chance at an NCAA at-large bid. Tony Barbee’s first season at Auburn ended with an 11-20 record, but the Tigers showed a lot of progress down the stretch.