Wednesday's 88-76 thumping of Tennessee told Georgia coach Jim Harrick all he wanted to know about his team:
The Bulldogs' bite is back.
Harrick had been hounded the past few weeks, when a six-game winning streak morphed into four straight losses and imperiled the Bulldogs' NCAA Tournament hopes.
The second-year coach hoped Georgia would put it all together in time to avoid a demotion to the less-prestigious National Invitation Tournament, and he got his wish at Tennessee.
Down 66-63 with 6:32 left, Georgia (15-11, 8-5 SEC) amassed a decisive 15-0 run over a four-minute span. The Volunteers are the most athletic inside team in the SEC, but the Bulldogs banged out a 47-29 advantage on the boards.
Guard D.A. Layne (21 points on 8-of-16 shooting) and forward Anthony Evans (18 points, 14 rebounds) gave the Bulldogs a potent inside-outside threat, and Georgia sank 22 of 28 free throws after having entered the game 10th in SEC free-throw shooting.
"We were playing tenacious defense inside and outside," said Harrick, whose team plays host to South Carolina at 5 p.m. Saturday. "We out-rebounded them, and we made our foul shots. Those are the kinds of things that help you win down the stretch."
South Carolina is in bubble trouble, and we're not just talking about the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Gamecocks, who lost their second straight home game in Tuesday's 69-67 defeat to Arkansas, might find themselves left out of the NIT if their tailspin continues.
Their record is 13-11, 5-8 in the SEC, and they probably need a few more wins to merit NIT consideration. After Saturday's trip to Georgia, South Carolina plays host to Tennessee before closing the regular season at Mississippi State on March 3.
The Gamecocks have missed the postseason for two straight years.
AGONY OF THE FEET:
Florida hasn't let injuries get in its way this season, so why should Brent Wright's latest ailment be cause for alarm?
The forward re-aggravated an injury to his right foot in Wednesday's 75-55 trouncing of Mississippi. The senior already had screws in his left thumb and right and left feet before he planted his foot awkwardly late in the second half against the Rebels.
Gators coach Billy Donovan said Wright is "questionable at best" for Saturday's home tilt against No. 21 Alabama.
NO WAY TO EXPLAIN:
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt had no explanation for his team's 98-54 loss to Duke on Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Jackets (15-10, 7-7) had won five of their past seven and hoped to climb higher in the ACC standings. It was Georgia Tech's worst loss since falling to North Carolina by 45 points in 1972 and its worst loss since joining the league.
"Tonight was just a case of getting beat pretty solid by an excellent basketball team," Hewitt said. "We just turned the ball over too much in the latter part of the first half. They are too good of a team to have 20 turnovers in the first half."
WAKE IN NCAA:
After Wake Forest handed Clemson a 92-60 loss Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum, Tiger coach Larry Shyatt said the Demon Deacons looked like a team headed for the NCAA Tournament.
"They're in a fight for an NCAA berth," Shyatt said. "To me, it looked like they had total command of that intensity and played very well from start to finish."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.
Staff writer Tim Morse and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
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