Thornton leads Georgia past Troy

Georgia coach Mark Fox can’t seem to keep Marcus Thornton out of the gym. The two go at it, Thornton’s eagerness to continue practicing a direct challenge to Fox’s demands that the senior give it a rest already.

Fox just has his player’s best interest in mind, given Thornton’s history of knee injuries. The forward has undergone two arthroscopic knee injuries in his time at Georgia.

“I’ve got to try and lock the doors and cut the lights off in the gym because he’s always wanting to go in there,” Fox said.

On the team’s last day off before facing Troy on Friday night, Thornton got a stern “Do not go in there” from his head coach.

Thornton’s diligence is serving him and his team well. In the Bulldogs’ 82-60 win over the Trojans (1-2), Thornton scored 17 points, a career high. He and senior Nemanja Djurisic tied to lead the Bulldogs (2-1) in points, a performance Fox expected from two of his team’s leaders.

“They played like seniors should play,” Fox said.

The Georgia offense surged in the first half, giving itself a 15-point cushion heading into the locker room. Much of that early success can be attributed to the ease at which the Bulldogs passed the ball. J.J. Frazier led Georgia in assists with six and the team totaled 17, a season high.

“We wanted to make plays for one another, which carried over from last game,” Thornton said. “It’s just like momentum, it’s infectious. We start making plays for each other, we start hitting shots, everybody hits shots.”

Not lost in Thornton and Djurisic’s 17-point performances was the resurgence of Kenny Gaines. The junior returned to the starting lineup for the first time this season after a case of mononucleosis sidelined him for about “eight or nine” practices.

“I’m feeling good, especially after a win,” Gaines said.

After putting up 12 points, he assessed his health at about 90 percent. Gaines averaged 13 points per game last season. Fox played Gaines for 30 minutes Friday night, and said he plans to work the guard into the rotation as to “play him into condition.”

“He certainly looked fresher and a little stronger tonight,” Fox said.

Gaines will have a day to rest up before the Bulldogs’ next opponent, Florida Atlantic, comes into town. Both Friday night’s win and Sunday’s game will help the Bulldogs prepare for No. 13 Gonzaga, who they face in New York on Wednesday.

“It’s very important for our confidence, very important to get comfortable, to get adjusted,” Djurisic said of this weekend’s slate of games. “We all have to go through some time on the court to get ready for the NIT tournament.”