Georgia wins but looks like far from NCAA tournament team

Jeremy Price reaches for a loose ball -- and his team had to reach at the end to hold on for a win. (Tracy Glantz/The State)

Jeremy Price reaches for ball, and his team had to reach at end but held on for win. (The State)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Georgia just won a late-season conference basketball game on the road, which given the program’s general lack of success over the past several seasons hardly is something to brush away, like crumbs off a table.

But there’s reason to be concerned here.

South Carolina scored nine points in the first half Saturday. It made two of its first 21 shots. That’s difficult to do when there aren’t hurricane-force winds. It was comic relief surpassed only by the halftime highlight show on the video screen, when the Gamecocks’ scoreboard operator showed all four field goals (out of 28 attempts) the team made in the half.

The Bulldogs led 15-3. And 24-5. And 28-9 (halftime). And then, well, almost everybody stopped paying attention. Including Georgia.

The Bulldogs won, but only barely, 60-56. They could have lost. I have this theory that those words should never follow a nine-point first half by the opponent.

When a team is trying to reaffirm itself as NCAA tournament-worthy, more is expected — particularly when the opponent resembles walking corpses in the first half and trails by 23 points (47-24) with 11 minutes left. They can feel fortunate that human polls won’t figure into postseason hopes.

Coach Mark Fox put a positive spin on the game afterward, saying: “There certainly are some things that we can look back and say, ‘We have to address this and address that,’ but that’s after any game. The key for us is we found a way to win. We’re not the perfect team. We’re not going to be. We have deficiencies in lots of areas, and we’re not going to correct those all this year. We just need to learn how to try to stay away from some of those, clean them up and move forward.”

Getting to the postseason is about bottom lines. In that sense, Georgia is close. At 17-7 overall and 6-4 in the SEC, the Dogs probably need only to split their final six regular-season games before the SEC tournament to make it into the NCAA tournament. It would be a terrific achievement for Fox, who inherited a program that went 12-20 in 2008-09, won 14 games last season and already has exceeded that this year.

But any expectations of the Dogs’ having a special tournament run are contingent on them not resembling what we witnessed in Columbia. When the Gamecocks came back onto the floor in the second half with their craniums intact and all of their organs suddenly accounted for, Georgia players drifted into silliness. They turned the ball over. They didn’t handle pressure well. The got slow on defense. They were outworked on the boards.

“We made a lot of mental mistakes,” guard Travis Leslie said. “We made some terrible passes.”

Hustle was a problem. Hustle should never be a problem.

“They [South Carolina] got to every loose ball late in the game,” Fox said.

The Gamecocks whittled the deficit to six points (57-51) with three minutes left. The Dogs responded with two turnovers and a missed layup. With 1:26 left, it was down to 57-55 — the first two-point deficit since 2-0.

Later, with the Dogs up 59-56, Dustin Ware missed a jumper, giving the Gamecocks the ball back with 11.7 seconds left. Following a timeout, they got the ball to Bruce Ellington, whose 3-point attempt was blocked by Trey Thompkins. Somebody made a play, and that secured it. Finally.

Afterwards, Thompkins admitted: “We got a little complacent. You’re winning. You’re on the road. The other team looks like they just don’t want to play any more.” And then Georgia went in the wrong direction.

When guard Travis Leslie was asked if he was concerned about the team’s inability to put away this game earlier, he responded: “I wouldn’t say that.”

What would he say?

“I really don’t know.”

When told it seemed like he was biting his tongue, he said: “Yeah.”

It’s probably better left unsaid.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

152 comments Add your comment

Sloan

February 12th, 2011
8:36 pm

UGA had better learn how to take care of the basketball!

Hairy Dawg

February 12th, 2011
8:39 pm

We have a bad habit of committing atrocious turnovers late in games, especially when we’re ahead. Leslie and Price are two of the biggest culprits, but how about Robinson’s attempted dunk that was easily blocked in the second half? All the man had to do was pull up and eat some clock. Instead, he decides he wants to be Nate Robinson or something. Well, I like Gerald, but he ain’t Nate.

If we want to be a part of the Big Dance, we have to tighten up.

What??

February 12th, 2011
8:42 pm

What really bothers me is seeing guys (Thompkins for one) not have his hands up on defense for the entire game. That is probably the first thing every kid is taught when they learn to play basketball, “Keep you hands up on defense.” The other thing that bothers me is the fact that we can’t pass the ball out of a trap. Have these guys ever heard of a ball fake. It’s ridiculous. I like Mark Fox and he has us headed in the right direction, but to see players at this level making these kinds of mistakes is dumbfounding.

harold

February 12th, 2011
8:45 pm

THIS GEORGIA TEAM SUCKS AGAIN. GEORGIA ISN’T DESERVING OF AN NCAA BID. GEORGIA DESERVES TO GO TO THE NIT. THIS TEAM LIKE OTHERS IS A ANOTHER WEAK BASKETBALL TEAM. GEORGIA WILL NEVER BE WHAT TENNESSEE, FLORIDA AND KENTUCKY IN BASKETBALL.

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman !

February 12th, 2011
8:47 pm

Dawgs almost blew a 23 point lead. This team wouldntt make it past the first round in the NIT much less the Big Dance.

GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

February 12th, 2011
8:51 pm

DAWGS RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who is Mark Fox?

February 12th, 2011
8:51 pm

Robin Hood

February 12th, 2011
8:52 pm

I was in Columbia and one thing that stood out to me was that during the national athem the whole team from Coach Fox on down had their hands over their hearts. A class act from a class coach and those that do not like the team can just go away. Thanks Dogs and Coach Fox!

Sick of this Crap

February 12th, 2011
8:53 pm

Im so tired of UGA eeking out wins against puny SC teams both in BB and Football.

georgia87

February 12th, 2011
8:53 pm

It is a team that cannot shake off the preseason predictions of greatness and go out and win a game based on how they play instead of how they should play. Respect is earned, not granted. The preseason accolades really seem to have eaten at the will of these guys to play. Too bad. Could’ve been a great year.

GT is a 4th rate high school team

February 12th, 2011
9:01 pm

Better WINS than LOSSES unlike those Yellow Jockitch.

GT is a 4th rate high school team

February 12th, 2011
9:04 pm

Those fans saying they are so unhappy about this win are not true fans, they are like fans of other teams, pretenders in short.

haruld

February 12th, 2011
9:04 pm

I BE STUPIDS. IF I TYPES IN ALL CAPS PEPULE WILL PAY ATENSHUN. LIKES THEY DO WHENS I YELL ON TECHWOOD AVE

GT is a 4th rate high school team

February 12th, 2011
9:07 pm

Which team do you prefer? This year or last year? You are delusional if you think this team will be march deep in the NCAA considering it has no consistent 3 point shooter.

zzggyy

February 12th, 2011
9:07 pm

Thankfully the ‘Dawgs hung in there for the win. Shultz said earlier that the 9 point first half was a record for SC. Had they come back & won that game, it would probably have been some other sort of come-back record at the expense of the ‘Dawgs.

Dr. Phil

February 12th, 2011
9:08 pm

Fox has certainly got the program going in the right direction.

TopDawg

February 12th, 2011
9:10 pm

It wasn’t pretty at the end, but I will take the win. When South Carolina only scored 9 points in the half, it wasn’t because of a stifling defensive effort, they just couldn’t hit the basket. You knew that would have to change eventually. The confusion of our players when South Carolina pressed was what bothered me the most. You never run to the corner to get the ball inbounds, talk about trapping yourself. Then they would hold the ball for five seconds and have to do something out of desperation. They have the ball handlers and the speed to get out of those situations. Use them!! GO DAWGS!!!!

RomeDawg

February 12th, 2011
9:13 pm

Sometimes I feel like we play scared and some of our main guys (Thompkins, Leslie and Robinson) disappear. However, we still won and looking back on tape for errors is a lot easier to do with a “W” on your side as opposed to a loss.

GT is a 4th rate high school team

February 12th, 2011
9:13 pm

TopDawg, you are right. For some reason they seem not have practice being pressed at all??????

UGA LAW 96

February 12th, 2011
9:15 pm

When will Georgia EVER resemble institutions such as Stanford, who win (at ALL sports) on the court/field, and still graduate exemplary student-athletes? They win the Sears Director’s Cup every year! We should demand more from our esteemed University! Coach Mark Fox, as is Coach Richt, is a class act and an excellent coach. But we want more from Georgia…we want Nationaal Championships!!!!!! …and from other teams than Tennis, Golf, and Gymnastics! And we want zero arrests! Is this really too much to ask?

Joe

February 12th, 2011
9:17 pm

Based on what Fox inherited, I’ll take it. You’re an idiot, but you look in the mirror everyday and no doubt know this.

mb

February 12th, 2011
9:20 pm

Boy have times changed. We are now complaining about HOW we won an SEC game on the road. What preseason predictions of greatness are you talking about? We were predicted to be a better than average team in the SEC and have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament and both of those things are coming to pass. I am proud of how the Dawgs have competed and I am looking forward to see what happens the rest of the year.

St. Clarkston

February 12th, 2011
9:25 pm

20 wins will get this team in , no doubt.

Brett Favre was once a Falcon

February 12th, 2011
9:28 pm

You complainers need to back and read the first sentence of this article.

scott

February 12th, 2011
9:30 pm

UGA law 96……When was the last Nat’l champion for Standford in BB or Football? Hmmmmmmmmm? Or Pac 10 champ. for that matter

Nice post. By the way, for quite some time in late 90’s early 2000’s UGA was right there is the top competeing for that Sears Cup, in fact in top 5 last over the last 10 years 3 times. all in all 10 top 10 finishes over the last 15 yrs. Come on know your stuff.

scott

February 12th, 2011
9:33 pm

Impressive Sears Cp stats last 15 yrs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NACDA_Directors‘_Cup#NCAA_Division_I

YellerSkeeters are PeterEaters!

February 12th, 2011
9:37 pm

As long as we continue to beat The North Avenue Trade School, I’m happy!

nola dawg fan

February 12th, 2011
9:45 pm

dang Jeff… you really are doing everything you can to rile up the UGA fan base. You win a SEC road game, who cares what the score is. PERIOD. Win and move on.

Its obvious what you are trying to do… always putting the “negative spin” on UGA sports. Trying to drive ‘hits’. Great recruiting class… but wait, Shultz will write about how Richt might screw it up. SEC road win… Shultz will write “major issues”.

Every team in college basketball has issues Jeff… even the boys in Columbus, OH (catch that final today eh?)

WinderDawg

February 12th, 2011
9:45 pm

After watching UGA beat Kentucky in Athens earlier this year I thought UGA has arrived but after the season has unfolded Kentucky is awful on the road and UGA is still learning how to win ball games. I still believe that the talent is there if played the way Coach Fox is instructing. UGA has a strong front court and guards who can get in the paint but as a whole have no outside jumpshot. I’m more concerned on why opposing players will drive to the basket and very little weak side help. Watch the top teams defend the basket you rarely see a player drive by his opponent without another opponent wating to prevent the easy path. UGA will go as far as it’s ability to play defense and hit free throws in the 75% range as a team. I’ll be watching go DAWGS!

GW

February 12th, 2011
9:47 pm

I was in Columbia and knew we were in trouble at the half when we had only 28. A loss could have been blamed on the first 2 minutes of the 2nd half as much as anything. After Thompkins and Ware there’s not enough basketball IQ. Thornton is getting better.

EDAWG

February 12th, 2011
9:51 pm

Still have seen this team press any one all season long, might come in handy down the rode to be able to execute this.

Your Name Here

February 12th, 2011
9:52 pm

Paul Hewitt is awesome.

If he was coaching Georgia, they’d have beat SC 212 to zip.

frannie T mae

February 12th, 2011
9:53 pm

UGA is in BIG BIG trouble.

10 to 6

February 12th, 2011
9:54 pm

Mark Fox’s basketball team can score some points !

10 to 6

February 12th, 2011
9:55 pm

28 first half and 32 in the second.

Tired of the Heartbreak

February 12th, 2011
9:57 pm

First off, let me say it’s very exciting to finally have a competitive basketball program again, thank you Mark Fox. I was a heart-broken freshman at UGA when the Harrick debacle went down and our team was pulled from a potential tournament run. Coming into this year, we knew the team finally had some real talent and the expectations were high. We have played extremely well all season, losing several heartbreakers. Yes- we have endured bad calls and bad luck, welcome to life. Champions overcome. What concerns me with our program is getting too wrapped up in the “bad luck” rather than executing what it takes to win (praying Mr. McGarity brought this mentality from UF). Furthermore, the consistent lack of discipline and sheer desire to win has been frustrating to say the least. Having been the laughing stock doormat of the conference for the past 8 or so years, motivation should not be an issue. How do we keep losing focus like against auburn & usc? Please get this message to Athens immediately: focus on intelligent ball control in the half-court offense and breaking the press. DO NOT MISS OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOOSE BALLS. Please give us something to be proud about coming down the stretch and let’s play with some heart. It starts with Vandy. Go Dawgs!!

Cataclysmic Meltdown

February 12th, 2011
10:02 pm

When will the Dawgs ever dominate a game from start to finish? Either in BB or Football inwhich they seem to let off the gas pedal oh so often.

LakeDawg

February 12th, 2011
10:02 pm

While it’s frustrating to see that UGA has hit the wall in terms of improving, I’m still pretty happy with the year. Preseason, I thought the NIT would show good progress and would have been happy with that. Once the season got started, I was thinking this could be a huge year. Alas, the team is going through growing pains, which shouldn’t surprise anyone in only the second year of Fox’s tenure. While disappointed in their progress of late, I look up and see they’re in second place in the east and all seven of their losses are to teams in the top 25 RPI rankings with no blowouts. Not too shabby. I have a feeling if the Dawgs hang tough we will see a burst of improvement at the end of the season.

Always a Dawg

February 12th, 2011
10:04 pm

“The got slow on defense.” Just like the author of this article got “lazy on editing”.

Any conference road win is a good win, by the way….

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Cop out Dawg

February 12th, 2011
10:06 pm

Oh the SEC is tough , a win is a win and I’LL take it. Good Grief……..

bjohnDawg

February 12th, 2011
10:07 pm

Team needs some outside shooting plain and simple.
Not enough deep shot threats.

If I am a coach playing the Dawgs, I pack the defense in down low
And dare Georgia to shoot threes. Outside of an occasional burst by Ware, the opponent is 9 times out of 10 safe. Team will get to 20 wins, probably an NCAA invite, and one maybe two and out.

But that said, Fox is a fine coach, team a VAST improvement over previous teams, and I look forward to good things to come.
If not this year. Then Next.

Cop out Dawg

February 12th, 2011
10:09 pm

Yeah… next year and the next and the next and so on and so forth…. When is next year ?

bjohnDawg

February 12th, 2011
10:14 pm

Cop Out Dawg.

You thing after one year Fox was going to have an NCAA tourney winner? With a team short on talent when he started? For a basketball program that has been crappy for years except a couple of years in the 80s and 90s.

You clearlyknow nothing about basketball or building a program. And clearly not a UGA basketball fan.

Bug Zapper

February 12th, 2011
10:15 pm

No complaints here!….We’re just one season from going 0 for the season on the road last year …..So this bunch is vastly improved from what we’ve seen in the past….CMF has this squad pointed in the right direction…I somehow think this bunch can make a small run in the tourney…They just have a bad habit of playing down, or up to their competition…….Uh, Bugs, paul Hewwitt and the boys have’nt been above 500 in the ACC since the fluke championship run…..And I may be wrong but they’re 4 and 46 on the road……We ay not be perfect but we are the current king of cbb in this state and will be the only NCAA tourney team…..

Tired of the Heartbreak

February 12th, 2011
10:18 pm

Fact: we should be winning the SEC minus chokes to UF/UT. Fact: dawgs should have won NC at least once in Richt era. We need to chill out all the hype & excuses, learn how to become champions. With Trey and Travis projected to leave for NBA, no doubt we should be dancing in March. Anything less would be another letdown.

Cop out Dawg

February 12th, 2011
10:21 pm

without trey and travis next year the dawgs will be back to the cellar. mark it down.

Bright Idea

February 12th, 2011
10:32 pm

Meanwhile gymnastics is circling the drain. Can’t believe AJC has not started hammering it. They will now. Any bad news for UGA is good news to Sargent Shultz and Bradley.

TampaDAWG

February 12th, 2011
10:39 pm

Lets see right now UGA is 6-4 in the SEC, tied for 2nd in the SEC East, have not been blown out in any of their losses, our 17-7 and still not a tournament team? Hmm, if UGA goes 8-8 in the SEC they should be a tournament team with wins over Kentucky, Arkansas, and hopefully Vanderbilt at home. Now anyone down on Coach Fox needs to pay attention, this team was the worst in the SEC 2 years ago, go competitive last year with no players that Coach Fox had recruited, and now could have a 20 win season with only one major contributer from a Coach Fox recruited player (Robinson), Williams and Thornton will be good but give them time. The DAWGS are playin hard they just don’t have the depth that some of these other teams do. Give Coach Fox 1-2 more years and you will see even bigger strides than we already have. I’d still even bet the team will make it to the tournament this year. Not a tournament team, BS!!

kral

February 12th, 2011
10:40 pm

First of all..no bad news here….shultzie takes a shot at the win…but did he mention..tied for 2nd behind flaaarida..no..did he mention ahead of the mighty kentuck..no..yes the game got scarry..but you know UGA did put them away..they won on their home court…take it everytime no matter how it might look..ang jeeeffffiiiee you really do not have a clue