Georgia not giving any hints of another miracle run

Gerald Robinson goes up for an easy two points against Vanderbilt. If only every play was that easy for Georgia this season. (AP photo)

Gerald Robinson goes up for an easy two points against Vanderbilt. If only every play was that easy for Georgia this season. (AP photo)

ATHENS – The coach of a team that’s struggling to just stay out of last place is always looking for positives to disseminate, anything to keep players motivated and fans clinging to hopes of a miracle 180.

Mark Fox appears to be well-practiced in this art.

“We’ve played 12 league games and we’ve made more baskets than our opponent,” the Georgia coach accurately pointed out Sunday. “We’ve had fewer turnovers in league play. We have more offensive rebounds. We’re getting beaten at the foul line — we’re not physical enough to draw free throw attempts but we’re close. If we make free throws and finish better around the basket, this game comes down to the wire.”

So he’s saying they’ve got a chance . . .

Actually, maybe they do. After the tornado-dented SEC tournament of 2008, can anybody really state with certainty that Georgia has zero chance to pull off a miracle string of upsets in a few weeks?

Ninety-eight percent certainty, maybe. Georgia’s latest effort Sunday was like so many others this season. The Dogs played hard but couldn’t make shots because, simply, they’re not very good.

They led Vanderbilt, a likely NCAA tournament team, 40-35 with 13:38 left at Stegeman Coliseum, then were outscored 15-0 in a span of 5:33, during which they were 0 for 8 from the floor and committed two turnovers. So opened the gates to a 61-52 loss, the Bulldogs’ ninth conference defeat in 12 games.

They’re a hiccup ahead of last-place South Carolina (2-10), the team it lost to last Wednesday.

Remarkably, Fox’s statistical observations were correct. Georgia made more field goals (20-17) than Vanderbilt. They committed fewer turnovers (20-12). They finished with more offensive rebounds (13-7).

That’s the great thing about statistics. If you spin them just right, you can make yourself look like a No. 1 seed, or a Nobel candidate. In comparing the state of the Georgia and Vanderbilt programs right now, it would be just as accurate to point out that Athens is slightly closer to being beach-front property than Nashville.

Fox did great things in his first two seasons at Georgia. He engineered upsets of three ranked teams in his first year and an NCAA tournament run in his second. But he just doesn’t have much to work with. The numbers that actually indicate where his team is at: Georgia was 1 for 17 in three-point attempts in the second half and 3 for 23 in the game. Vanderbilt was 10 for 22. That’s a 21-point difference.

The Dogs are the worst-shooting (.392) and lowest-scoring (61.3) team in the conference. After 26 games, it’s more than a trend.

Georgia is capable of the occasional upset (it beat then-ranked Mississippi State). But it’s equally capable of losing to last-place South Carolina (which happened four days later).

“We’ve been playing better, especially over the past month. We just have to keep growing,” guard Dustin Ware said.

“I’m pretty sure we can take something positive from every game,” said Gerald Robinson.

These are the soundbites from a team just waiting for the skies to open up again.

Four years ago, the Dogs went through the regular season and won four SEC games. Then they went through the conference tournament and won four games in three days, winning the Golden Ticket to the NCAA tournament. Those Dogs actually had more stacked against them. In 2008, Georgia was dealing with a program that still hadn’t put the pieces back together following NCAA probation. There were rumors that coach Dennis Felton was about to lose his job. (Indeed, the tournament run likely saved it.)

There’s no such baggage this time. But the reality is that miracles don’t happen very often. That’s why they’re called miracles. And the numbers that matter most aren’t real comforting.

By Jeff Schultz

70 comments Add your comment

Hubie Brown

February 19th, 2012
5:25 pm

UGA missed several layups in the game also. Physically they are very weak. With Mann (6′6″) at point next year and Caldwell Pope at wing, along with Brandon Morris and a year of maturity for all the bigs, it could be a much better year next year.

bill

February 19th, 2012
5:26 pm

Fox is a good coach…just needs to bring the state’s best players to Athens. It’s time to close the borders!

BUZZ 2011

February 19th, 2012
5:34 pm

Where were the Dawg fans? Stegman was half empty.. Where was Kentavian Caldwell Pope? Why didn’t he play?

CHIII

February 19th, 2012
5:35 pm

did’t know you could spend stats

JJ

February 19th, 2012
5:39 pm

Jeff, did you go to Athens today expecting that you’d write any article other than the one you sent to copy today? If UGA had found a way to win this game, you would have put a negative spin on it. Sometimes you can be a real horse’s arse.

Gamecockrock

February 19th, 2012
5:57 pm

Losing to us is embarrassing.

Steve

February 19th, 2012
6:02 pm

I think JJ needs a hug.

Dave in Buford

February 19th, 2012
6:06 pm

How can you put a positive spin on 3 for 23 and a 15-0 run at home? They’re a bad team and you can’t sugarcoat it … what do you expect Schultz to do? I just hope Fox hangs around … he’s a good coach but he does need to shut the borders down.

em

February 19th, 2012
6:09 pm

I like “spending” stats. It is as much fun as finding grammar errors in “professionally” written news and sports articles

mike on lake hartwell

February 19th, 2012
6:16 pm

We suck. Oh well, at least the band “cracker” is performing in Athens in 11 days. rock on! What’s up rhb?!

JJ

February 19th, 2012
6:29 pm

You can put a lot of positives on this UGA team. Everybody on the planet knew this was going to be a team that would struggle to avoid last place this season – if you didn’t know that then you just didn’t pay attention in the preseason. This team plays hard and most of the time is in the game against teams that should be beating them by 30 points. A decent sports writer might write an article about how this team plays just about everybody tough against long odds, and that the future is still bright. Instead we get Jeff’s one-liners. He’d probably be better off writing for SNL than the AJC (or any newspaper.)

phil

February 19th, 2012
7:29 pm

Positives? On this crap? It’s always excuses for this program. Year after year after year. Next year it will be that doofus Fox let his hair grow out too much.

Fire Mark Fox!! Start over. It can’t get much worse.

J Clay

February 19th, 2012
7:30 pm

Schultz- it’s clear Fox can coach well, but I’m not sure he can recruit. Huge question mark going forward as last years run was with Felton players. What do you think?

UGA has a basketball program?

February 19th, 2012
7:56 pm

Surprised the AJC actually published a basketball article about UGA….when’s spring football start?

Ringleader

February 19th, 2012
8:09 pm

It is clear to me that Fox not only got out recruited on the high school level last year, but he did not recruit his own
players to avoid the NBA and come back. What a difference
if he had kept the team together.

dmr

February 19th, 2012
8:39 pm

GROWING PAINS! This was hard to watch. Fox has had his ups and downs in Athens. It is still to early to know what to think. Fox did great things with a bad team two seasons ago and did good things with a reasonably talented team last year.

The questions are these…Can Fox recruit the talent he needs year in and year out to make Georgia basketball relevant? Can he develop the team he’s got now? There is no question that if this team had Thompkins, Leslie, and Pope, that they would be very good. This is where Fox will have to earn his salary, by bringing in big time talent. In all honesty, this team is too small, too timid, too weak, and too undisciplined to play consistent basketball. STILL BACK THE DAWGS THOUGH!

Beast from the East

February 19th, 2012
8:53 pm

Fox will wind up losing his job if he can’t recruit better. He can coach players up but the talent gap is just too big to be competetive game after game. Hope he makes it because I think he’s a solid coach. One or two recruits could make a world of difference.

phil

February 19th, 2012
9:01 pm

Solid coaches don’t call timeout with one second left in games as you’re firing the winning shot….

Fire CMF!!

Rabun Dawg

February 19th, 2012
9:15 pm

This has to be the worst shooting team of all times. They cannot get the ball in the hoop from in close or from beyond the arc. They play hard, but just do not have the talent to win much in this conference. Fox may be a good coach, but can he recruit the talent to have a consistent winner in Athens? UGA has never really been relevant in Bball, and I doubt that that is going to change any time soon. Fox will eventually give up the fight, and move on to a mid major that gives a hoot about the game.All you have to do is look around Stegman on game day and conclude that UGA has never been nor will ever be relevant about the game, as the stands are never full, except when UK is there and most of the crowd is in blue! We are a FOOTBALL SCHOOL, and lately not so good at that!

matt cryin

February 19th, 2012
9:38 pm

Never thought that UGA would go back to the Felton days, but they are getting close. Fox should have kept Pete Herman, who was good at coach big men on the post. Other than Donte, who should be playing forward, UGA has no inside game. Fox needs to recruit some post who can play, and weigh more than 210 pounds.

Bright Idea

February 19th, 2012
9:57 pm

The last thing UGA needs is another coaching change in men’s basketball. Trying to recruit Atlanta AAU all-stars won’t work. They’ve been told too much about the lack of tradition at UGA and have heard that nobody cares so they won’t come. Recruit elsewhere rather than finishing 2nd for these guys.

Dawg fan

February 19th, 2012
10:27 pm

These dawgs will grow and make us proud. All you negative people take a hike or go back to the tech blog.

dawgpound

February 19th, 2012
10:36 pm

fox better start recruiting some stars and winning big or he can hit the road. I’m tired of all these mediocre BB teams in athens.

Ogeechee Dawg

February 19th, 2012
10:53 pm

Tough to watch.

This program is frustrating – you can see good things – but they lose games left and right.
Not good.

I think Fox is a solid coach, a good game day coach – his issue is being able to attract talent and depth to Athens. This is the worst team in the SEC. Heck, South Carolina just beat us.

Let’s see what happens next year – if it is more of the same, then that is 4 years with a coach trying to build a program – but running in mud.

Next move will be to hire a BIG NAME proven coach that will attract talent. That is the only way to get the states best into Athens.

Tide Pride

February 19th, 2012
10:59 pm

Save for womens basketball, equestrain, tennis and golf – UGA’s athletic department is not very good in the major sports (defined as the sports people actually care about – football, mens basketball and baseball).
Football – UGA lost to all 4 final ranked teams last year, 7 losses last year, 5 losses the season before.

Basketball – name a basketball program in the SEC that has sucks as bad as UGA historically. Maybe Ole Miss. Point is – this is a horrible program.

Baseball – UGA has made some noise – but last year was just brutal, the year before that was pretty bad as well.

As an athletic program – UGA is just not that good.

Hoops Dawg

February 19th, 2012
11:10 pm

Recruiting is the answer for Mark Fox. Let me say, however, that CMF is fighting an uphill battle when recruits see that the student section for an SEC game against a very good team is only 20% full. What the hell students. I suppose all of them went to church before hurrying home to study.

nobody

February 19th, 2012
11:27 pm

we’re close to looking good…a little more facial hair…a few more tattoos ought to do it…honestly,
UGA basketball is an oxymoron first class…we don’t need basketball anyway….i.e., it is a source of never-ending frustration we can do without…

Brian

February 20th, 2012
12:06 am

Tide Pride besides having a great football coach and an ok basketball team sometime what other sports do you excel in?

Brian

February 20th, 2012
12:08 am

by the way its good to know you follow UGA sports Tide Pride.

new arean

February 20th, 2012
12:40 am

to recruit superstars, Ga needs a first class arena—tear down the stegeman dump and put some real money into the bb program. Otherwise–more mediocrity. Star players don’t want to play in that rodeo barn.

Allen

February 20th, 2012
1:03 am

I like Mark Fox, but Ogeechee Dog said it all. “Next move will be to hire a BIG NAME proven coach that will attract talent. That is the only way to get the states best into Athens.”

AMEN TO THAT.

Allen

February 20th, 2012
1:06 am

@ Tide Pride – And how many times has Alabama been to the Final Four? ZERO. At least Georgia has been to the Final Four.

But I must agree we have been missing the mark on football and baseball lately . . . we DID win the National Championship in Baseball in 1990 . . . not sure if Bama has ever done that, either.

rxdawg

February 20th, 2012
2:18 am

Baseball was brutal last year? Playing the nations toughest schedule, finishing with a winning record and playing in the CWS regionals must be awful. Finishing second in that regional, beating a ranked team to do it must have sucked as well. Stop looking at the record alone and see who we played to achieve that record. Georgia was in the championship round in baseball less than 5 years ago and won it all in 1990.

TheAntiMe

February 20th, 2012
7:16 am

It seems that UGA and Tech are in a dead heat, as usual, to determine which of the two basketball teams reek the most. Regardless of who wins, the college roundball fans in Georgia totally lose.

Lagdawg

February 20th, 2012
8:12 am

Maybe a year in the weightroom will help the player down low. UGA does not have enough outside scorers and they are too small underneath the goal. Fox is a good coach, but he must do a better job recruiting a higher level of talent. Dustin Ware is not the answer at PG and more shooters will help KCP not be under so much pressure. The perimeter defense is horrible and the FT shooting is also. They have a lot of work to do before next season.

Larry

February 20th, 2012
8:15 am

Football is over, the Hawks are the Hawks, the Thrashers lost their wings, our college basketball teams haven’t a prayer of making the NCAA, and now all we have is another heavy dose of a hypochondriac, petrified 3rd baseman and Fruiti, the pilot of the worst September collapse in Braves history.

Jeff, what on earth positive about Atlanta Sports can you write about the next several months, NASCAR bubba beer guts and pork rinds?

Damn!

Gareth Bale

February 20th, 2012
8:20 am

Fox has got to be able to recruit this state. And in support of that, the UGA administration needs to lose the fear of calling out the out-of-state programs funneling money to coaches, churches and other interested parties who sway a high school player’s decision making. UGA should actually unite with Ga. Tech and GSU in this effort.

Joey

February 20th, 2012
8:27 am

Fox and his Bulldogs deserve last place for the loss to SC last week. The worst loss of the season this late, speaks volumes about this coaching staff.

Joey

February 20th, 2012
8:35 am

“But he just doesn’t have much to work with.”
************************************
Jeff, Who’s fault is that? Fox has recruited 3 classes.

I really like Fox and I hope he succeeds, but somehow he has to slow down the exit of top talent from this state, and snag a few.

Either that or get more out of average talent like Butler’s Stevens.

Send'em U Hauls

February 20th, 2012
8:54 am

Im sick and tired of losing to South Carolina in all sports. Run these clowns out of Athens!

UGA Insider

February 20th, 2012
9:10 am

The team is weak because the S&C program is weak. McGarity knows better and appears to have learned nothing in Gainesville except the art of weak scheduling.

BulldogBen

February 20th, 2012
9:22 am

Our shooting numbers are NIGHTMARISH. Fox deserves some of the blame but when do the players get some as well? I’m guilty of blamig recruiting (among other things) but Caldwell-Pope was a McDonald’s All American, Marcus Thornton was Mr. GA Basketball and a Parade All American, and Dustin Ware was supposedly one of the Top 25 PG’s in the country when he came in. Even without Thompkins and Leslie that should at least make us .500 in conference.

Fox and UGA sold us on a culture change (where have we heard that before) and if this it, then I guess it’s careful what you wish for.

I honestly have no idea if Fox can coach or not. It’s clear he can’t with lesser talent. With talent, it’s unknown or will never be known.

Hopefully it’ll all come together next year.

MPS

February 20th, 2012
9:47 am

Jeff Schultz:

“Fox did great things in his first two seasons at Georgia. He engineered upsets of three ranked teams in his first year and an NCAA tournament run in his second. But he just doesn’t have much to work with.”

First off, he did great things in his first two years with Dennis Felton’s guys, so let’s not give him too much credit for what Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie accomplished (Jeremy Price too I suppose).

Second, the team on the court now – that is currently 3-9 in the SEC – ARE Fox’s guys (sans Dustin Ware) and that is what is scary. Even more frightening is the thought that next season nearly this exact same team will have to navigate through another tough SEC schedule without its best player – Gerald Robinson, Jr.

Fox has three 3-star recruits coming in next season (eh) and not one of them is a legitimate post player, meaning UGA will be relying on Neme Djurisic and John Florveus to try to supplement Donte Williams in the paint.

Fox seems like a good guy, but if he can’t recruit in-state post players than how is he any different than Felton? Honestly, Felton was better at that than Fox has been thus far. The 2008 team you referred to had Albert Jackson, Jeremy Price and Dave Bliss manning the paint, all three of whom would star on this 2012 Bulldog basketball team.

Mid state dog

February 20th, 2012
9:48 am

Bring back Jim Harrick!

The rest of the SEC

February 20th, 2012
9:56 am

GEROGIA JUST AINT VERY GOOD. IN ANYTHING.

The difference: Thompkins and Leslie.

February 20th, 2012
9:58 am

Add those 2 players to this team and it’s NCAA bound and a threat to take the SEC title. FACT.

BulldogBen

February 20th, 2012
10:44 am

“Add those 2 players to this team and it’s NCAA bound and a threat to take the SEC title. FACT”

Wow. Did you also know that rain is wet and the sky is blue?

Of course we’d be better but they left. FACT. The point is shouldn’t the program be at a place where even when players leave, we should at least be competitive (read: 8-8 in league)??

I don’t expect to be UK or UNC or Duke but making the tournament 3 out of 4 years or 7 out of 10 shouldn’t be the pipe dream that it is right now. Not with the talent in this state.

cdog

February 20th, 2012
11:12 am

at least coach fox is concentrating on building his program unlike coaches felton and mark ritch who were looking to show everyone how tough they are by everytime you look around they were kicking someone off of their teams for something that you could handle in practice or by suspension. fox need to find some inside players for next season. that junk he has now couldn’t compete on a juco level. he should do good in tournament(SEC) THOUGH

harold

February 20th, 2012
12:07 pm

THIS UGA TEAM AS USUAL “SUCKS”! GEORGIA IS NOT AND NEVER HAS BEN COMMITTED TO BASKETBALL.

LOOK AT TENNESSEE AND TBA ( THOMPSON BOLLING ARENA) OR UK AND RUPP. THESE SCHOOLS SHOW THEIR COMMITTMENTS WITH MONEY AND THE FACILITIES. STEDGEMAN IS A JOKE!

dawgs smell

February 20th, 2012
12:17 pm

My guess is that you dawg fans feel that come SEC tournament time you will win it all. uga basketball stinks , always has going back to Dominique.