- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2008

ATLANTA (AP) — The setting resembled a Pee Wee league game, with seats reserved for family and friends. Most everyone else headed for home while a Southeastern Conference tournament like no other ad-libbed its way through the weekend, trying to pick up the pieces from a devastating storm.

There was a new venue — the cozy arena on Georgia Tech’s campus, rather than the spacious Georgia Dome. There was a hastily arranged schedule — yep, Georgia actually had to play twice yesterday, something most of the Bulldogs hadn’t done since their AAU days.

And get this: The last-place Bulldogs won both of ‘em.

Somehow, it seemed appropriate on such a surreal day.

“Nobody gave us a chance to win two games in one day,” Georgia center Dave Bliss said. “But we did it.”

Friday night, a powerful tornado tore through downtown Atlanta, causing the thick fabric roof of the Georgia Dome to flap like a flag in a stiff breeze. Small chunks of debris, from bolts to insulation, fell from the towering ceiling. Large strips of metal siding and insulation were ripped away from outer shell of the 70,000-seat stadium, which was pocked with gaping holes in the light of a new day.

With the dome judged unsafe, the SEC decided to move the final four tournament games to 9,100-seat Alexander Memorial Coliseum, only two miles away but far enough to have avoided the wrath of the storm. There was no way to accommodate all of the 20,000 or so fans who had tickets, so the league decided to keep everyone out except a bare-bones crew: media, support staff, bands, cheerleaders, family and friends.

When Georgia and Kentucky took the court at noon for the last of the quarterfinal games, one that was supposed to be played Friday night, there were only about 1,500 people in the stands. Georgia upset the Wildcats 60-56 in overtime, but the only thing the Bulldogs got for their trouble was another game about six hours later.

They used it as motivation, turning the grueling schedule into an us-against-the-world mentality. It worked against Kentucky. It worked against Mississippi State by an identical margin, 64-60.

In one day, the Bulldogs won half as many SEC games as they won during the entire regular season.

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