ATHENS — In a perfect world, Georgia would have gone home for Christmas after Saturday’s win over Illinois.
But there was the small matter of a game against Florida Atlantic on Wednesday. The Bulldogs played the first half like they were either still celebrating or homesick — or both.
"We didn’t play particularly well to start the game," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "I don’t know if we were patting ourselves on the back because of the Illinois game or because we were getting ready to go on Christmas break."
The Bulldogs trailed at the midway point but rode a 35-point, 15-rebound performance by Trey Thompkins to pull away in the second half for a 77-60 win.
"In the first half we seemed to still be celebrating the win against Illinois, at least in my eyes," Thompkins said. "The effort just wasn’t there. In the second half we corrected that and played as hard as we could."
It was a career high in scoring for Thompkins, and one short of his career best in rebounding.
"He got everything he scored tonight pretty much out of the offense," Fox said. "Trey is maturing as a player, and he is seeing where he can be very productive in this system."
Dustin Ware was the only other Bulldogs player in double figures with 12 points.
Florida Atlantic (5-6) got 12 points apiece from Raymond Taylor and Shavar Richardson. Greg Gantt added 10.
The Owls led for most of the first half and by as many as nine points, the last time at 23-14 with 7:39 to go before halftime on Alex Tucker’s layup.
Georgia (6-4) whittled the deficit to 30-29 at halftime.
"I thought that in the first half we played pretty well," Florida Atlantic coach Mike Jarvis said. "I think we could have been up by a few more points. Turns out we needed to be. In the second half, the home team did what the home team normally does in these games before Christmas, and that’s find a way to win.
"Georgia has a great coach in Mark Fox, who really keeps his team grounded and down to earth. That showed in the second part of the game."
The Bulldogs took a 35-34 lead on Thompkins’ layup with 17:20 left. The Owls tied it with a free throw at 35-all, but never led again.
Georgia’s 20-3 run pushed the lead to 64-44 with 4:32 remaining.
The Owls hit four straight 3-pointers to cut the lead to 66-58 with 2:18 to go, but Georgia pulled away at the end.
Thompkins said Georgia tried to diminish Taylor’s impact. The 5-foot-6 freshman entered the game as the leading scorer (18.2 points per game) in the Sun Belt Conference.
"It is almost strange to not be the smallest player on the floor for once," said Ware, who is 5-11. "He is a great player. He came in and really made a lot of great plays for them. He is as quick as they come."