He almost had to take it back on Saturday.
Auburn (8-15 overall, 1-8 in the SEC) is one of the worst major-conference teams in recent memory. Entering this weekend, the Tigers ranked 282 out of 345 teams in the RPI, according to CollegeRPI.com. And going by the RPI, Auburn was the second-worst team Georgia has played this year, better only than Manhattan.
But a few minutes into overtime – yes, overtime – Auburn had Georgia on the ropes at home. Then Trey Thompkins, who needed an IV before the game to even play, took over to restore order.
Georgia escaped with an 81-72 win over Auburn, keeping its NCAA tournament hopes intact. But “escaped” was putting it kindly.
“We’re kind of lucky to win tonight. Because it shouldn’t have been an overtime,” said Jeremy Price, who tied his career high with 22 points. “Our approach to the game wasn’t what it should’ve been.”
It didn’t help that a number of players returned from the Arkansas trip with some kind of sickness. Fox said “three or four” players were sick on Thursday and Friday. (Gerald Robinson and Marcus Thornton were among them, according to Travis Leslie.)
But Fox pointed the finger less at sickness than himself.
“Auburn played with a little more edge than we did today,” Fox said. “It is a win, even though I am very disappointed. I don’t think I did a very good job of preparing our team to play, to be honest with you. I didn’t get us to come back off the trip very well. We’ll move on from here.”
Thompkins was not available to speak to the media after the game because of his sickness. It was the star forward’s errant inbounds pass, with 13 seconds let, that allowed Auburn to get a steal and a layup to tie the game and send it into overtime.
But Thompkins redeemed himself a few minutes into the overtime.
Auburn, propelled by Ernest Ross’ 30 points, had a 72-71 lead with three minutes left, and possession. Thompkins grabbed a rebound, then fed Dustin Ware for the open layup.
On the next possession, Thompkins was fouled and went 1-for-2 from the line. Then he grabbed another defensive rebound, and on the other end converted a three-point play to make it 77-72.
Georgia (16-6, 5-4) remained very much in NCAA contention, with a huge non-conference game against Xavier on Tuesday night.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot of candidates for (bad losses) remaining on our schedule,” Fox said. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted to today, but at the end of the day it’s about whether you won or you lost. And we won.
“As we near the tournament … all you hear at tournament time is your ‘body of work.’ Well we have avoided putting a bunch of black eyes on our body of work, and that’s a plus.”