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COLLEGE BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: Georgia beats Eastern Kentucky, Ga. Tech tops Mercer

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ATHENS -- When nothing else was working offensively for Georgia, 6-foot-10 forward Trey Thompkins was.

With Georgia and Eastern Kentucky tied at 47 with 7:17 to go, Thompkins scored three straight baskets and 10 of his team's next 12 points to rally the Bulldogs to a 64-57 win over Eastern Kentucky on Friday.

"They know when they need a bucket they can come to me when they need to," Thompkins said after scoring a season-high 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting. "I don't know if that was the plan, but once you give me the ball, it is my job to put it in the bucket."

Coach Mark Fox said it was part of the design to get the ball in to Thompkins, who scored eight points from the right low block in the decisive four-minute spurt.

"I am starting to feel I am getting my rhythm," said Thompkins, who missed the first three games with a sprained ankle. "My teammates are looking for me."

Travis Leslie added 14 for Georgia (11-2), which went undefeated in December for the third time in school history.

Freshman Jeff Johnson came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points to lead Eastern Kentucky (5-8), losers of four straight.

Fox did not find much to like about the game.

"If I don't coach better and we don't play better, we will have a long 2011," Fox said. "I was not impressed with how we played and how we coached."

Fox said it was an overall poor performance.

"Loose balls, we didn't get them," he said. "We didn't rebound it great. We did not execute offensively very well. I don't think we played hard enough. We made some poor decisions defensively that set us up for failure."

"We know we are a much better team and are not playing up to par," said guard Gerald Robinson, who scored nine points and had a game-high five assists. "We are happy to go into the conference with an 11-2 record."

Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer had a different take, naturally.

"We told the players that we were proud of them," said Neubauer. "Their effort today was unbelievable. We had a goal of nine turnovers, and we had 10. We also wanted to play good transition defense, and I thought that we did a good job of that. This has to be a springboard."

Johnson scored 15 of his points in the first half when the Colonels closed to within one at halftime. The Colonels went ahead early in the second half and led as late at 12:37, 43-42 after a jumper by Spencer Perrin.

Sparked by Thompkins, the Bulldogs mounted a 12-3 run to build a 59-50 lead with 2:42 to go.

The eight-game winning streak is Georgia's longest since the 2002-03 team also won eight straight. That team went undefeated in December, though the wins were vacated after NCAA sanctions. The other Bulldogs squad to go unbeaten in December was the 1982-83 team that advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

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GEORGIA TECH 87: MERCER 78: Glenn Rice Jr. may be just the player Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt has been looking for.

Rice, a sophomore, scored a career-high 24 points and Iman Shumpert added all of his 15 points in the second half to lead Georgia Tech to a come-from-behind 87-78 win over Mercer on Friday.

"He (Rice) is growing up. His attention to detail has improved," said Hewitt. "He's the type of guy who can lead this team in a lot of ways."

Rice shot 6 for 15 from the field, including 4 of 10 3's and connected on 8 of 10 free throws.

"I've been working hard in practice on getting my footwork right so it can translate into the game and I think it worked," Rice said.

Freshmen Jason Morris and Kammeon Holsey each added a career-high 13 points for the Yellow Jackets (7-5).

Jeff Smith led Mercer (3-10) with 23 points. The Bears, who have lost seven of eight, also got 16 points from Brian Mills.

Tech, which trailed 47-41 at halftime, went ahead to stay at 60-59 on a basket by Shumpert with 9:23 left. The Yellow Jackets then broke it open with a 9-1 run for a 70-62 lead with 5:10 remaining on a 3-point shot by Rice. Mercer never got closer than five points the rest of the way.

"Defensively, we were better (in the second half)," said Hewitt.

Holsey said Hewitt told his team at halftime "to play tough, to put more pressure on them."

Mercer, which had lost its last two games in the final seconds -- 56-53 to Georgia on Dec. 23 and 64-63 to Charlotte on Thursday night -- had its biggest lead at six points at halftime.

"I'm real proud of our guys; not happy with the loss," said Mercer coach Bob Hoffman. "They have given us everything that they can give us the last four weeks and we have been right there and just have not been able to get the fruits of our labor."

Smith, Mercer's leading scorer (14.2), led the Bears with 13 points and Mills added 10 in the first half as the Bears shot 56 percent (19 for 34), including 6 for 9 from 3-point range (67 percent).

Rice had 12 points and Morris added 11 points at the half for the Yellow Jackets.

Tech's two leading scorers -- Shumpert (14.7 points) and Oliver (12.2) -- failed to score before intermission. Shumpert hampered by two early fouls, only played 8 minutes and was 0 for 2 from the field. Oliver, in 16 minutes, was 0 for 3.

Shumpert and Rice led Tech in rebounds, each with seven. Shumpert hit on 4 of 8 shots in the second half, including a 3-pointer, and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. Oliver wound up with two points on 1-of-7 shooting.