NCAA Berth Caps Fast Finish to '08
Georgia made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in six years, doing so in the unlikeliest manner. The Bulldogs earned an automatic berth for just the second time in school history, winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.
Georgia's march through the SEC Tournament was legendary stuff in itself. The Bulldogs had compiled the league's fewest wins during the regular season. Such a long-haul performance gave little indication that they would perform any sort of miraculous feat in a 4-day stretch.
The Bulldogs edged Ole Miss 97-95 in overtime for their first-round victory, setting up a third match with Kentucky the next day. Less than a half-hour before tipoff, however, a tornado tore through downtown Atlanta, causing enough damage to the Georgia Dome to force a postponement and a move to the Georgia Tech arena for the tournament's remainder.
The Bulldogs advanced twice on Saturday, both in dramatic fashion. They defeated Kentucky on a 3-point shot by freshman Zac Swansey with just 1.6 seconds left in overtime. Less than six hours later, they defeated SEC West champ Mississippi State by a 64-60 count.
Ironically, their victory over Arkansas in the SEC Championship game proved to be their "easiest" of the weekend. The Bulldogs controlled the game from its outset, listing only briefly before pulling away late for a 66-57 victory.
Senior guard Sundiata Gaines was named the tournament's MVP, but there were heroes aplenty. Terrance Woodbury averaged nearly 16 points over the four games, including a career-high 25 in the first round vs. Ole Miss. Sophomore post player Albert Jackson turned in key contributions in three games, as did everyone that saw playing time all weekend.
Georgia's 4-game run through the SEC Tournament 1) matched its entire win total for the whole 16-game regular-season conference schedule, and 2) represented the Bulldogs' longest winning streak of the 2007-08 season.
Gaines Puts Name in Record Books
Sundiata Gaines established himself as one of the best, most prolific players in UGA basketball history. He did so throughout his career, but especially in his senior season. Among the milestones he either met or surpassed include:
In the season's second game, he became the school's 38th player to score 1,000 career points, ultimately finishing 9th on that all-time scoring list.
He finished with 476 career assists, good enough for second place on the school's all-time list.
Early in the 2008 season, he also became Georgia's all-time leader in steals, finishing with 259 thefts, 41 more than the previous leader, Pat Hamilton.
The team rebounding leader three years running, Gaines finished 11th among the school's all-time leaders with 674.
In all, Gaines leaves Georgia has the ONLY player in school history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists over an entire career.
Bliss, Gaines Elected Co-Captains
In pre-season balloting by their peers, seniors Dave Bliss and Sundiata Gaines were elected team co-captains for the 2007-08 season. It was the third such captaincy for Bliss.