Trey Thompkins knew he'd be making his college debut for Georgia Monday night against Santa Clara in the consolation round of the Dick Sporting Goods Preseason NIT.
He just never figured on this.
The 6-foot-9 freshman scored 10 points and blocked five shots in 18 minutes to help lead the Bulldogs to a 54-48 win before a paid Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 4,599.
"This felt great," Thompkins said. "Having on-and-off injuries throughout my career, it gets frustrating but to finally get out there and compete with my teammates is a blessing."
The Bulldogs (4-1) likely felt a bit blessed themselves. Due to a myriad of injuries, the latest being a high-ankle sprain, Thompkins said he took part in only three practices since the start of preseason.
He wound up playing nine minutes in each half, going just 2-for-7 from the field but 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
"Trey certainly puts another scorer on the floor for us that's for sure," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "The job he did at the free throw line was huge, all those points were important. He'll just get better and better as he gets experience."
To his credit, however, Thompkins was far from satisfied with his performance.
"I've got to rebound better, man," said Thompkins, who pulled down just two boards. "I feel like I can dish the ball more, too. I like to think I'm a well-rounded player."
The Bulldogs certainly need Thompkins to be at his peak.
Although the defense was borderline spectacular by forcing 25 turnovers, Georgia shot only 35.4 percent for the game but the free throw shooting did improve (18-of-24) after making just two of 11 shots Friday against Presbyterian.
"To hold anybody in the 40s, turn them over 25 times, and this is a team that doesn't turn it over, that's a very good job. They're very good about controlling the ball and controlling the tempo to get what they want. To steal the ball 11 times and hold them to 39 percent shooting, that's obviously what won the game for us," Felton said. "Our offense still has to get better but at the same time we're still missing some shots that will start to fall at a better rate as we go along, too. The thing we can control is becoming more and more disciplined in executing our offense and developing our chemistry along with it."
After leading 24-19 at the half, Santa Clara (1-3) went on a 12-5 run to start the second half and twice tied the game (29-29 and 31-31) before the Bulldogs began to pull away. A 3-pointer by Thompkins from the top of the key put Georgia up 38-33. The Broncos would not get any closer than three points the rest of the night.
"I'm disappointed that we lost but I know we're getting better," Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. "This is a very young team, so we knew we were going to have a few growing pains throughout the year. It isn't all going to come together at once. We have been in every game up to this point in the tournament and we will fight (Tuesday) to try and salvage a win."
Georgia will play Mississippi Valley State at 8 p.m. Tuesday, preceded by Santa Clara-Arizona at 5:45 p.m.
Terrance Woodbury led the Bulldogs with 14 points, followed by Albert Jackson with 12 points (5-of-7 shooting) with a team-high five boards.
John Bryant, the Broncos' 6-foot-11, 287-pound center, led Santa Clara with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
"This was really the first time we have had the whole team on the court," Felton said. "To have a rotation is big and the guys were ready for this team, specifically."
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