Lots of debate among UGA fans after Tuesday night’s game over whether the Dogs should have fouled Florida’s Erving Walker at the end of the first overtime rather than letting him make an admittedly surprising 30-foot 3-point shot.
Georgia was leading 85-82 with 6.7 seconds left and the conventional thinking in such situations is that you foul, give up a couple of free throws and get the ball and the game.
But Georgia didn’t foul Walker and didn’t even cover him that closely, apparently relying on distance and the long odds against him making the shot.
Coach Mark Fox maintained after the game that it was his decision not to foul. Partly, he said, that was because “we have always trusted our defense.”
But more to the point was “the way the rebounding was going in the second half,” he said. While Dogs had dominated the glass in the first half, the Gators beat them 33-23 on the boards after that. Fox obviously was concerned the Gators would deliberately muff the second foul shot, get the rebound and tie the game up that way.
It’s a tough call either way. If he really trusted his defense, then shouldn’t he have trusted they’d get that crucial rebound? Or was he actually playing the odds correctly considering how unlikely that Gator shot was?
And then there’s another question. Did Fox really make the decision not to foul? Florida’s Walker said he thought he heard Fox “say something” about fouling “so I just tried to take the three before they could foul me.” And the ESPN crew calling the nationally televised game seemed pretty convinced that Fox wanted the Dogs to foul but couldn’t communicate that to his players.
Maybe they were mistaken; or perhaps Fox was just covering for his inattentive players after the loss.
To me, though, the more disturbing development was the way Georgia came out in the second overtime, turning the ball over three straight times and allowing the Gators to go up by nine, pretty much putting the game out of reach.
Fox said he thought his Dogs “looked fatigued” in that second overtime, but the Dogs’ Jeremy Price said he thought it was “more mental than physical” and that the Gators’ tying shot “took away a lot from us.”
If Fox was correct, then perhaps Mark Richt isn’t the only Georgia coach who needs to take a harder look at his strength and conditioning program.
If Price is right, and I think maybe he is, perhaps having lost that way will teach this team about mental toughness and what it takes to win a game like this.
If so, down the road Georgia might win one of these “heartbreakers,” as Fox called Tuesday’s game. In order to make the NCAA tournament, they’re probably going to have to do just that.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg