ATHENS -- Marcus Thornton fell to the floor early in Sunday’s game, and when the senior forward got up with a limp, given his history, it was understandable for anyone around the Georgia men’s basketball team to be a bit nervous.
It turned out just to be a rolled ankle, and not only did Thornton quickly return to the game, he had a double-double to lead Georgia to a 74-61 victory over Florida Atlantic.
That was heartening to see for the Bulldogs, as Thornton is a big part of the equation if they are to have a good year. He’s off to a very good start, averaging 14 points and 7.8 rebounds in Georgia’s first four games. Both are team highs.
“This year, he has confidence in his body; he has confidence in his game, so he can really be aggressive,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said.
Two years ago, Thornton took a medical redshirt because of knee surgery, which was his third since arriving at Georgia. He was rusty when he returned at the start of last season, only averaging 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in non-conference play. His team struggled, too, starting 6-6.
But Thornton took his game to another level when SEC play began, averaging 9.2 points and 6.9 rebounds, and he was a big reason the Bulldogs went 12-6.
It appears he’s even more comfortable this year. He had 17 points Sunday, tying the career-high he set in the previous game, and had a game-high 12 rebounds.
“I have the feeling of having played,” Thornton said. “Last year when I came on, it had been a year or so since I’d gotten to play or play at full strength so it took me awhile to get going and get a feel for what it’s like to play in a game and be in the pace and rhythm of the game. So this year, I didn’t really have to take that time off and get readjusted.”
Georgia’s win Sunday was more lackluster than Friday, when it pummeled Stony Brook. It took a 17-5 run in the first half to grab the lead from Florida Atlantic (1-3), and while it was never that close in the second half, the Bulldogs could never quite run away with the game.
Now the Bulldogs head to New York City for the NIT Season Tip-Off, where they open Wednesday with No. 13 Gonzaga. Fox put a good face on Sunday’s performance.
“It’s good to have some errors and to learn from them,” Fox said.
Thornton wasn’t the only Bulldogs player to have a big game. Junior guard Kenny Gaines, continuing to work back into shape after missing three weeks with mononucleosis, had 15 points in 31 minutes.
Senior forward Nemanja Djurisic nearly had a triple-double (eight points, 10 rebounds, eight assists).
“Would we really have wanted to focus on something like that he probably could have had it,” Fox said. “He’s a really complete player.”