ATHENS – You could almost see it coming. Fresh off a win over Illinois, Georgia was going to suffer some kind a letdown against Florida Atlantic on Wednesday night.
And there it was in the first half, as the Bulldogs regressed for 20 minutes before they remembered what it took to beat a better team just four days before and put away Florida Atlantic 77-60.
Georgia (6-4) opened up a 20-point lead in the second half behind a flurry of baskets from Trey Thompkins. The reigning SEC player of the week, Thompkins finished with a career-high 35 points and 15 rebounds.
"I think we sprained our wrists patting ourselves on the back," Thompkins said. "We beat Illinois, which is a great team, but we didn't show up to play against FAU. It shows us any given day, anybody could beat you."
Trailing 30-29 at halftime, the Bulldogs were getting outrebounded by Florida Atlantic, which was one of just a few, succinct points Georgia coach Mark Fox made at halftime.
"He made it clear Christmas wasn't here yet," Thompkins said. "We couldn't give just anybody wins."
Thompkins scored 25 of his 35 points in the second half. He featured his usual impressive array of post moves but showed a little range too. He sank three shots from the top of the key, one from the elbow and added only his seventh 3-pointer of the season. The 3-pointer was the centerpiece of a 20-3 second half run which won the game for Georgia.
Thompkins, who was leading Georgia with 15 points per game and had 21 against Illinois, isn't new to carrying this offense. (The rest of the team scored 42 points, led by Dustin Ware with 12.) But even for him, it was a bit much. Thompkins hadn't scored in the 30s since leading the Wesleyan School to the Class AA state championship as a senior in high school.
It was the biggest night by a Bulldog since Litterial Green went for 35 against Florida on Feb. 12, 1991.
"The first two or three minutes, I said to my assistants that Trey should get 40 points," Fox said. "I think he should have gotten 40, to be honest with you."
Coaches will be coaches.
Coach Mike Jarvis' Owls (5-6) gave Georgia a little something to think about over the Christmas break when they mounted a 14-2 run in the final four minutes, which included four 3-pointers. But Thompkins put away any further upset hopes with an 18-footer from the top of the key.
Florida Atlantic's offense was engineered by the Muggsy Bogues-lookalike Raymond Taylor, a 5-foot-6 freshman who was leading the Owls with 18.2 points per game. He slashed and darted his way to seven points in the first half with three assists.
But it was as if somebody reminded the Bulldogs of his vertical challenges, as both Thompkins and Albert Jackson blocked his shots on drives to the basket early in the second half.
Perhaps that somebody was Fox.
"That should never happen," Fox said. "A guy 5-6 or 6-6, you shouldn't let the ball be driven to the rim. I don't care how big the player is."
Taylor finished with 12 points and six assists.
Playing at home for the first time since Dec. 2, Stegeman Coliseum must have felt foreign to the Bulldogs. Forgetting the progress they'd made over three games against Virginia Tech, St. John's and Illinois, they were back to playing stagnantly on offense and looking for Thompkins to bail them out.
Thompkins scored Georgia's first four field goals until Travis Leslie hit a jumper in the lane with 8:41 left in the first half. By then the Owls had opened up a nine-point lead.