ATHENS — Trey Thompkins is showing the kind of leadership first-year Georgia coach Mark Fox needs from his leading scorer.
“We have talked with a lot our younger guys about the fact that they’ve played so many minutes and that they have to start playing like upperclassmen,” Fox said. “Tonight Trey finished the game like an upperclassman.”
Thompkins had 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to help Georgia overcome a 13-point second-half deficit and beat Alabama 76-70 on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (12-13, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) won their third straight at home to improve to 11-3 this season at Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia snapped an 11-game losing streak to SEC Western Division opponents.
Alabama (14-12, 4-8) has lost five of six, but the Crimson Tide took their biggest lead when Mikhail Torrance’s two free throws made it 52-39 with 11:39 remaining.
Since beating Georgia last year in Tuscaloosa, the Tide has lost five straight and six of eight to the SEC East.
“We didn’t have the toughness to finish,” senior Mikhail Torrance said. “Coach (Anthony Grant) had a great game plan, as usual, and we were up and then we just stopped making plays.”
The Bulldogs took their first lead in nearly 13 minutes when Thompkins banked in a 14-footer to make it 61-60 with 4:12 remaining. Less than two minutes later, Thompkins’ long jumper from the left wing ended a 3:28 run during which he outscored Alabama 9-1 and pulled down four rebounds.
“My teammates needed me to rebound and score tonight in the heat of the battle, and that’s just what I have to do,” the sophomore forward said. “If my teammates want that, I give it to them.”
Travis Leslie had 16 points, and Ricky McPhee added 13 for Georgia, which began the game leading the SEC with a 74.8 free-throw percentage but went just 13-for-24 from the foul line.
The Bulldogs regained some composure, however, by hitting 11 of their last 12.
“We were just missing free throws left and right, and we had to keep fighting,” McPhee said. “It’s frustrating that we get to the line and we’re missing easy free throws, but I’m just happy with our performance.”
Torrance led the Tide with 20 points. JaMychal Green finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Green’s three-point play put Alabama ahead 33-32 with 17:50 remaining and gave the Tide their first lead since the 6:27 mark of the first half.
Georgia had 19 assists and outscored Alabama 36-26 in the paint. Alabama finished with a season-low eight assists.
“We have an inability to defend and rebound downt the stretch,” Grant said. “It’s a recurring thing. It cost us in this game just like it has in some other games this season. We need to control the things that we can control like blocking out and rebounding, the things that affect winning. When the game is on the line, it seems like we just don’t do it.”
The Bulldogs’ Dustin Ware was scoreless on three attempts from the field when his 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining pushed the lead to 68-63.
“Everybody stepped up when we had to get the job done,” Leslie said. “We were making it hard on ourselves early in the second half, but things started to go our way because we didn’t give up. Dustin didn’t give up either. You’re not going to hit every shot, but you don’t quit just because you miss.”