ATHENS -- Georgia knew its post game would be an issue entering the season. Then Marcus Thornton got hurt. And then it got rougher.
This week marked the return of Thornton, the athletic sophomore who had been Georgia’s leading rebounder and is the team’s most talented post player. But will it mean a resurgence in the impact of Georgia’s beleaguered post game?
If it does, it will not be the classic version of an interior post game.
Thornton is only 6-foot-7. Nemanja Petrovic, the freshman whose playing time has increased, is 6-8. Donte’ Williams, who also starts, is a slender 6-9.
“We’ve gotta make up for it with toughness,” Thornton said. “We’ve got some pretty good athletes ... Donte’s a pretty good athlete. But we’ve gotta make up for it with IQ, toughness and that’s what we try to implement with our group.”
Georgia entered the read ranked last in the SEC in rebounding margin, at minus-1.9. It has been so bad that when head coach Mark Fox saw the stat sheet after Wednesday’s game -- when his team was only outrebounded by Tennessee by one -- that he seemed pleased.
The opponent Saturday will offer a stiffer test. Mississippi (12-6, 2-2 SEC) is coming of an upset of No. 18 Mississippi State. The Rebels have been buoyed by the return of junior forward Murphy Holloway, who had 19 points and 14 rebounds against Arkansas last week. Holloway, an athletic but burly post player, was one of the SEC’s leading rebounder two years ago.
Georgia (10-8, 1-3) is hoping that Thornton’s addition, after missing five games with a knee injury, will prove a lift. But exactly what kind of lift could be up for debate.
Thornton, a former Mr. Basketball in Georgia, is only averaging 2.6 points per game. Williams (7.7 points per game) and Djurisic (6.7) have increased their scoring, but the team’s top three scoring options remain wing players.
“I think we all just need to concentrate on what we do well,” Thornton said. “And eventually we’ll score more and everybody will get better in that area. But for now what we’re doing to win is play defense and rebounding.”
But Fox sounded like he wants to get more from his post players.
“We still need to get more scoring, and we’re not scoring at the points at we want to yet,” Fox said. “Donte’s getting more comfortable, I think. With our physical builds, we’re not gonna win the goal-line stands. We’ve got to flash guys to spots and move bodies to position instead of just push and shove for the spot.”
Thornton could end up playing small forward, which means more time on the wing.
The scoring hasn’t happened for Thornton yet. But Fox excuses it by pointing out he missed time his freshman year with mononucleosis and went through the knee problems this season.
“He hasn’t quite been healthy since he came (to college),” Fox said. “I think once he gets healthy and he has time to get comfortable I think you’ll see his offensive production go up. I thought the smartest thing he did the other night is he didn’t try to shoot the ball and make a bunch of offensive plays. Because he hadn’t practiced. That’s a sign of great maturity. He made a great impact on the team, and didn’t even try to shoot the ball.”