Georgia’s ability to get second chance points has a lot to do with the fact that it will get the chance to settle its season series with Vanderbilt once and for all.
The Bulldogs (14-16) earned the right to play the Commodores for the third time when they became the only lower seed to win in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday. They defeated Arkansas 77-64 before a second session crowd of 14,789 at Bridgestone Arena and advanced to the quarterfinals where they will face the Commodores, 8:45 p.m. Friday.
It was Georgia’s ability to collect offensive rebounds and turn them into points that made the biggest difference. The first possession of the contest featured three offensive rebounds, two of them by Travis Leslie who finally started the scoring with a layup.
For the game, UGA had a 17-8 edge in offensive rebounds and 45-28 overall on the boards. It scored 19 second-chance points as compared nine for Arkansas. Five different Bulldogs had more than one offensive rebound, led by Leslie and Trey Tompkins with four each.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well early in the second half,” coach Mark Fox said. “For us to get on the glass was critical. We had 19 second-chance points — that was a big part of the game.”
That same trait proved problematic for Vanderbilt in two regular-season meetings with the Bulldogs. Each side won on their home floor, but the Commodores needed overtime after they overcame a six-point deficit in the final minute of regulation to get their victory.
“They’ve got some big, strong guys inside,” VU coach Kevin Stallings said on Wednesday. “They’ve got physical front line guys all across the board. So that’s been a little bit of a problem.”
Despite the struggles Arkansas (14-18) had on the boards, it still was within six, 67-61, with a little more than three minutes to play.
Leslie scored the next five points and pushed the game out of reach. He finished with 21, two fewer than Tompkins, who also had a game-high 14 rebounds.
“Vanderbilt is a great team,” Tompkins said of Friday’s matchup. “We understand we are going to have to come with every punch we have because they’re going to play us hard.”
Florida 78, Auburn 69
Alex Tyus made 11 of 16 field goals and scored a team-high 24 points as Florida defeated Auburn 78-69 in the opening game of the evening session.
Tyus, a junior forward, made five of eight from the field in the first half and six of eight in the second half — many of them dunks — as the Gators turned back several attempts to rally by Auburn.
Florida (21-11), considered by some to be on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid, led by nine at halftime and never trailed throughout the final 20 minutes.
Auburn (15-17), however, scored the first eight points after intermission and four times in the last 3:13 closed to within five points. Twice in the final minute, Dwayne Reed made layups that cut the deficit to five, but the Tigers got no closer.
Auburn’s Frankie Sullivan led all scorers with 25 points. Reed added 18.
Chandler Parsons added 21 points for Florida, which will face Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals. Vernon Macklin had 10 points and three steals.