ATHENS — Gerald Robinson scored 16 points as Georgia bounced back from a sluggish start to rout LSU 73-53 Wednesday night for its 20th victory, ensuring a winning record in the Southeastern Conference and perhaps a bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs (20-9, 9-6) trailed 13-4 in the early going, but woke up in time to lead at the break. They blew it open in the second half, putting on an impressive dunking display against the overmatched Tigers (11-19, 3-12), who have lost 12 of their last 13 games.
Georgia goes into the finale at SEC West leader Alabama assured of its first 20-win regular season that actually counts since 1996-97, Tubby Smith’s final year as coach. There was another in 2001-02 under Jim Harrick, but it was wiped out by a pay-for-play and academic scandal that sent the program into a long tailspin.
The hard times appear to be over.
Ware finished with 15 points — all on 3-pointers — while Travis Leslie added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Ralston Turner led LSU with 18 points.
Georgia was only up 30-25 at halftime, but led by Robinson, the Bulldogs wasted no time finishing off the Tigers after returning to the court.
The slick guard got things started by passing inside to Trey Thompkins for a layup, then caught a lob pass from Dustin Ware for a thunderous dunk that led LSU to call a quick timeout, looking to stymie the momentum.
But Robinson kept his foot on the pedal, slicing into the lane for a floater that gave the Bulldogs their first double-figure lead of the night, 36-25.
Ware swished his fourth 3-pointer of the night, and Travis Leslie blocked Turner attempting to drive the lane, zipping a pass to Robinson breaking the other way for another layup that made it 41-28.
LSU got as close as it would get, 41-32, before Robinson pulled off another play for the highlight package. He was going in for a layup with a step on the defenders, but spotted Jeremy Price coming up from behind. Robinson flipped back a no-look pass that set up Price for a thunderous dunk.
With the game totally out of hand in the closing seconds, the Bulldogs were able to clear the bench and give the two seniors, Price and Chris Barnes, a chance to soak up some applause from the crowd in their final home game.
Before departing, Price kneeled down to kiss the “G” in the center of the court.
At the start, Georgia looked very much like a team that was looking ahead. The Bulldogs missed 10 straight shots as LSU raced out to its nine-point lead.
Ware brought back the Bulldogs from beyond the arc, connecting on back-to-back 3s that tied the game at 17. His third trey gave Georgia its biggest lead in the opening half, 26-19.
Aaron Dotson responded with a 3 of his own, breaking an LSU drought of more than 9 minutes without a field goal.