March 3, 2012

Robinson keys Dawgs past USC

For Gerald Robinson Jr., Saturday's "Senior Day" game against South Carolina was one he won't soon forget, as the Bulldogs toppled South Carolina in the regular-season finale, 67-55.

Whether it was the short turnaround from Thursday's contest at Kentucky or the emotional pre-game ceremony, both Robinson and his Bulldog teammates got off to an excruciating slow start as it took Georgia nearly eight minutes to score its first points.

But Robinson would warm up, finishing with a game-high 23 points for the Bulldogs (14-16, 5-11) who will go into next week's SEC Tournament in New Orleans as the 11th seed.

"Senior Day is a very emotional day for everybody," Robinson said. "But once we settled down we knew we had to go out and get a win."

Head coach Mark Fox wasn't particularly surprised that Robinson was able to overcome his slow start and finish the game strong like he did.

He's seen it several times over the course of his Bulldog career.

"I told the team this week, on senior day, the underclassmen have to win the game. Some seniors are terrible. It's so emotional because it's a privilege to play here. But some of them are terrific and I thought Gerald was both," Fox said. "At the start of the game he was in somewhat of a funk. We had a timeout and I chewed on him. I don't chew on him very often, but I chewed on him and he responded like a senior after that."

The victory enabled Georgia to avenge a 57-56 loss to South Carolina on Feb. 15, although the way the game started, it appeared the Gamecocks were about to make it two in a row.

Seniors Matt Bucklin and Conor Nolte received their first starts, but the Bulldogs started slowly as South Carolina scored the game's first 10 points before Georgia finally got on the board with 12:17 on the clock on a layup by Robinson.

But Georgia would soon make up for lost time.

The Bulldogs ended the half on a 25-7 run, including one stretch where the team hit five 3-pointers over a five-minute stretch, including three by Robinson who tallied 13 points for Georgia which went into the locker room up 30-23.

In the second half, South Carolina closed within 35-33 with 15:10 to play on a jumper by Malik Cook, but Georgia countered with a 14-2 run to extend the margin to 49-35 and were never threatened again.

"It looked like both teams were fatigued at the start of the game, end of the year (fatigue). We started a lineup today with our seniors, that until yesterday, had never been on the court at the same time in those roles and it showed to start the game," Fox said. "I thought we were a little emotionally and mentally fatigued from Thursday night with the quick turnaround, but that wouldn't be fair to South Carolina. I thought their defense was better than our offense to start the game."

Robinson was the only Bulldog in double-figures, although freshman Nemanja Djurisic enjoyed a solid game with seven points and 10 rebounds.

Georgia shot just 38 percent from the field, but went to the free throw line a season-high 34 times, converting 23.

"We Just buckled down on D, we got a few easy ones in transition, got a rhythm and Gerald really caught fire and made things easy after that," Ware said of the game. "But it was definitely emotional. There were a lot of different things going through my mind. At one point I went through every year, year by year thinking about everything we went through."

Georgia now advances to the SEC Tournament where they will play the late game in Thursday's first round against either Ole Miss or Mississippi State.