A not-so-gentle reminder: Kentucky talent trumps UGA’s grit

It was exciting for a while. Then the Cats started to play. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It was exciting for a while. Then reality took hold. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

ATHENS — There came a moment in the first half when you saw just what it means to subsist mostly on effort. The ball went out of bounds in front of the visting bench. Four Georgia Bulldogs bent over and made the universal gesture for “I’m tired” — they grabbed the front of their baggy shorts.

And right then you knew. Technically the Bulldogs were hanging with Kentucky, but you knew they wouldn’t hang much longer. They’d played about as hard and as well as they could, and there have been nights this winter when such an effort would have sufficed. But this time Georgia was up against a team that can take inspired efforts and trump them with sheer talent.

With 8-1/2 minutes left in the first half, Georgia led by six points. Three minutes into the second half, it trailed by 16. The Bulldogs had done everything right early — they’d pounded the ball inside and flown after offensive rebounds and gotten two quick fouls on the massive DeMarcus Cousins — and then they looked up and the game was gone.

Mark Fox has done brilliant work with these Bulldogs, but John Wooden and Dean Smith working in cahoots wouldn’t have outflanked Kentucky over 40 minutes this night. Georgia has two really good players. Kentucky has four, five, six, seven …

“You have to play darn near perfect,” Fox said afterward, his Bulldogs a 12-point loser. “If you can’t match them either in size or in quickness, you have to play darn near perfect.”

Georgia had a chance to draw even late in the first half, but Ricky McPhee, the former walk-on playing his final home game, was called for walking, and DeAndre Liggins scored on a drive, and the Wildcats were up four at the break. Then the deluge: Kentucky induced six Bulldogs turnovers on the second half’s first six possessions.

Fox: “They’re a terrific team. They have terrific players. And Cal [John Calipari] has done a great job organizing his team. They aren’t just good because they have great players.”

Give Georgia credit. Sometimes Kentucky gets bored, but as this first half wore on you could see the Wildcats’ interest being piqued. The Bulldogs were running their sets and making Kentucky shoot over their 2-3 zone, and for 15 minutes you thought, “You know, this might just happen.” But Georgia got tired and the Wildcats got going, and for the first time in a while we were reminded just how much Fox’s overachievers have had to overcome.

Fox mentioned quickness: Kentucky had eight steals and forced 15 turnovers yielding 24 points. Fox mentioned size: Kentucky blocked 14 shots to Georgia’s none. And on a night when Stegeman Coliseum was packed and vibrant — everyone from Charles Barkley to to Charles Claxton to Jim Donnan to Vince Dooley was on hand — the team with star power showed its pedigree.

Fox burned a timeout not 75 seconds into the second half. He’d just seen Cousins — 6-foo-11, 270 pounds — steal a pass and lead the break and duck down the lane to score. The coach could have called 15 timeouts and done nothing to halt this.

A minute later, Cousins led another break and fed Patrick Patterson for a layup. It’s not enough that Kentucky has John Wall, the nation’s finest point guard.  It also has a center who can, when the mood strikes, act like a point guard. About all Georgia has is Trey Thompkins, who made as many fouls as baskets, and Travis Leslie, who worked so hard he needed an IV to fend off cramps.

“There’s no shame in losing to a terrific team like Kentucky,” Fox said, and there isn’t. Three months ago we wouldn’t have expected Georgia to stay within 20 points of the Wildcats on any floor. On this night the Bulldogs were beaten by 12 but made the nation’s No. 3 team work to do it. As strange as it might sound, that’s progress.

104 comments Add your comment

Frank

March 3rd, 2010
11:07 pm

You could see this one coming from a mile away. UK coming off of a loss just meant no chance for my Dawgs. UGA is getting better though as you stated above.

THWGT!!!!!

Engineer 99

March 3rd, 2010
11:07 pm

Another bad year for uga—losing record and not even a berth in the lowly NIT. But, proclaim it a “great year” somehow and give the coach a big raise!!! Tech—to the NCAAs!!!!!

DawgMann

March 3rd, 2010
11:09 pm

Mark Bradley

March 3rd, 2010
11:11 pm

When you watch Kentucky at peak capacity, you don’t ask, “How has this team won 28 games?” Instead: “How has this team lost twice?”

It’s the best UK team since the NCAA champs of 1996.

Frank

March 3rd, 2010
11:13 pm

GTU may go to the NCAA’s but it will be a very short stay. You can’t even compete with the team Engineer 99 is trying to put down.

THWGT!!!!

Really?

March 3rd, 2010
11:13 pm

Mark,

Does it ever get old writing an article and seeing an opposing fan use a blog message board to simply berate his rival for no apparent reason? Please tell me you guys have betting pools at the AJC to see how long it takes for the message boards to turn into a back and forth b/w GT/UGA….. GT/UGA Football….. GT/UGA “Student Athletes”…… What’s next GT/UGA incoming freshman SAT scores?!?! oh wait I think I’ve seen tha one before too just go look at post #96 it will be there….

Mark Bradley

March 3rd, 2010
11:15 pm

No. It never gets old, Really?

Rick

March 3rd, 2010
11:17 pm

Engineer 99 – don’t count your chickens. Tech’s not a lock for the NCAAs. Besides, you have no room to talk, we beat your sorry team earlier this year. Some people just don’t know when to shut up!

UGA_2001

March 3rd, 2010
11:19 pm

Those freshmen are good. UK got what they paid for…

Matt

March 3rd, 2010
11:19 pm

UK’s immaturity (Cousins) and free throw shooting (or lack thereof) will cost it when the tournament comes around. They may be talented, but Calipari teams always lose when the pressure’s on. As for UGA, is there a better team in the NCAA that has such a bad record> How is this team 5-10?

Logan

March 3rd, 2010
11:21 pm

I was just disappointed with the lack luster 2nd half. If we could have played like we did in the first half in the second and still lost, I would have still felt pretty good about our dawgs. All I can say is thank goodness mcphee will be gone in a couple of games. They were playing like a bunch of high schoolers in the second half with all the turnovers.

Really?

March 3rd, 2010
11:22 pm

Haha! Anyways thanks for the well written summarization. As a wise old Hawaiian fan once said to me outside the Super Dome in New Orleans, ” tooo big, tooo fast” Athletically UGA is not in the same arena by a long shot

bg3003

March 3rd, 2010
11:25 pm

yo engineer, most ppl didnt think that uga would have even 13 wins this season. so its not about the record right now, its about progress. beating teams like, Tennessee, illinois, and vandy equals up to some pretty good progress

ps. didn’t some school in atl lose to georgia this year too? i think the score was 73-66… yeeaa eat some of that for right now

SoCal Dawg

March 3rd, 2010
11:26 pm

A great season is when you exceed expectations. A bad season is when you squander the talent you do have. Great season Dawgs, with a bright future!

Mark Bradley

March 3rd, 2010
11:27 pm

Georgia has done well to win 13 games. I know that sounds like cold comfort, but this hasn’t been nearly the wretched season many among us anticipated.

bg3003

March 3rd, 2010
11:34 pm

well put mark, but once recruits see that georgia has a great coach sitting at the helm, there won’t be any more 13 win seasons. at least not for a while.

Mark Bradley

March 3rd, 2010
11:36 pm

You’d have to think this will translate into recruiting success, bg3003. Wouldn’t you?

Hoops Dawg

March 3rd, 2010
11:36 pm

Enter your comments here Mark, I think you hit the nail on the head this time in describing the streaming of the game. and Mark Fox is correct in saying that with the horses we have at present, we have to be perfect to beat them. Nonetheless, the guys played as hard as they could, which bodes well for the days ahead when we go 6-8 players deep, all of whom are talented. I am looking forward to those days, but let’s hope it doesn’t take too long–I’m 64.

Logan

March 3rd, 2010
11:36 pm

I know what you mean Mark, its just fustrating when you can see the potential, but yet watch them play like they did tonight. I dont know, maybe Im expecting too much out of them. Im just tired of watching the inconsistency. They seem to get right up to that proverbial turning point and fall back to their old ways.

Logan

March 3rd, 2010
11:40 pm

Its just frustrating to watch them get to that proverbial turning point and then fall back to their old ways.

SoCal Dawg

March 3rd, 2010
11:44 pm

GT has lost 6 of the last 11. That probably doesn’t look real good to the selection committee. Who has guaranteed GT an invite?

bg3003

March 3rd, 2010
11:45 pm

i hope so, but i personally think that its gonna take some time before mark fox gets some serious talent for his team(2-4 years) in the meantime, we’re just going to have to live with what we got, but it should be fun to see where georgia can go from here.

ozzfest

March 3rd, 2010
11:47 pm

MARK, DID THEY KEEP SCORE……IF SO, WHAT WAS IT?

bg3003

March 3rd, 2010
11:49 pm

logan i feel the same way, but this is still georgia we have probably 2 very reliable players on the team, after that the talent level makes a steep drop, and you just cant play 2 players for an entire game. so its understandable that georgia will lose games in that way.

Dawg Rule

March 3rd, 2010
11:57 pm

Georgia’s got little talent and is young so they had a much better year than Tech, who had a bunch of highly recruited talent and underachieved. Tech will not make the ncaas, but hewitt’s contract will roll over another year with millions more in raise money.

Logan

March 3rd, 2010
11:59 pm

i guess im just expecting too much from them. i just hope that fox can start to get some guards that can handle the point well and shoot at the same time. ware is doing a good job, but he keeps picking up his dribble too much and at times let the game get away from him. also have some shooting guards that can actually handle the ball as well and can shoot something besides a 3 pointer.

Hunker Down

March 4th, 2010
12:03 am

I had doubts about Coach Fox going in but considering what he has started with I feel he has made the most of this team. Coach Felton in comparison I feel has underperformed. I wish both team good luck the remainder of the season and pull for both teams to win.

Matt from Suwanee

March 4th, 2010
12:14 am

I would point out that all those players from Kentucky are going to go pro, but considering how much they are making now, they ARE pros. UK: The best team money can buy!

JeJe

March 4th, 2010
12:16 am

FIRE MIKE WOODSON

Elmore Spencer

March 4th, 2010
12:16 am

Dogs lost

Dont care. Bottom line is this guy can coach,

a little talent and half a bench and this guy will win

Reese Dawg

March 4th, 2010
12:28 am

Most of those uk players are going to the nba next year—with some top recruits, UGA wins the SEC next year—mark it down. Fox is the best coach in the SEC!!!

Dan

March 4th, 2010
1:01 am

LOL! Yea! Bad Georgia team can still beat Yech!

John Wall

March 4th, 2010
1:43 am

Georgia actually turned it over six of their first eight possessions, not six of six.

Mark Bradley

March 4th, 2010
2:51 am

Actually, Georgia turned it over on its first six trips in the second half. Two of the possessions were prolonged by offensive rebounds, but they still finished with a turnover.

Band Kid's Perspective

March 4th, 2010
3:04 am

How did an article about a UGA-UK game lead to a message war from North Avenue? Get a life nerds…

oLD gOLD

March 4th, 2010
5:21 am

Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh Schooooooooooooool!!!!!

Big Blue Nation

March 4th, 2010
5:25 am

Admitting that GA played an inspired game and lost against an obviously superior team, I do not understand the talk of some that UK pays its players. The UK Athletic Department has 18 people working on compliance. Unless you have a proof of what you are saying, then I suggest that you stick to basketball. Insulting your superior opponent may bring you satisfaction, but it makes you lose your credibility on a discussion board.
A word of advice. GA students should support their team game in and game out, and not only when they play Tech or UK. Expect a better team when basketball is not considered killing time until football season.
THWGT (for the fun of it)

Big Blue Nation

March 4th, 2010
5:26 am

Mark. I loved your article. Can’t you recommend any of your students to write for the Lexington Herald-Leader????

Douglas

March 4th, 2010
6:40 am

It’s obvious that we hired a pretty good coach in Fox — he can coach with the best and even beat them. Imagine what he will do for UGA when and if he keeps the talent in-state. The question for any player from Georgia who wants to choose between UGA or GT: who is the better coach? who will take us farther in the NCAA’s. Not Hewitt.

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March 4th, 2010
6:46 am

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Big Blue Nation

March 4th, 2010
6:51 am

Players from GA who are really good… the answer to Douglas’s question is UK’s Cal.

[...] Mark Bradley of the AJC writes that Kentucky’s talent trumped Georgia’s grit: “And right then you knew. Technically the Bulldogs were hanging with Kentucky, but you knew they wouldn’t hang much longer. They’d played about as hard and as well as they could, and there have been nights this winter when such an effort would have sufficed. But this time Georgia was up against a team that can take inspired efforts and trump them with sheer talent.” [...]

BrokeBackJacket

March 4th, 2010
7:20 am

Logan, I assume you are a fellow Dawg. The answer to your questions/concerns is simply depth, or lack there of. CMF is doing a wonderful job with his current roster…an athlete in any sport can only go “balls to the wall” for so many minutes…fatigue sets in thus diminishing your abilities/capabilities, and you become much more prone to “mental” lapses!

The future is bright for UGA basketball, if CMF is not “bought” away by one of the major basketball powers…and my personal belief is that Damon Evans will do everything he possibly can to prevent his leaving…Evans is commited to UGA having a winning basketball program!

Engineer 99 and oLd gOLD….gentlemen that is really weak….many from the nerd herd seem to have this fantasy that the techies are a “basketball” power….while I will be the first to admit that UGA’s BB program has for the most part sucked for a long long time…with a couple of short lived exceptions….I do believe the team you come here to bash amd throw your ignorant, classless barbs to has been to the exact same number of “final 4’s” as the trade school! Please informe me if I am mistaken! And, of course, you also choose to ignor UGA beat the techies in BB this year!

Big Blue Nation….while I admit UK has been, for the most part, the flag bearer of the SEC in BB forever…and I pull for ALL SEC teams in ALL sports except when we play them…..Before you come here blowing your little boy blue horn in regards to “fan support”……add 40,000 seats to that dump of a football stadium ya’ll have…fill it every Saturday for several years …THEN get back to me in regards to “fan support”!

Big Blue Nation

March 4th, 2010
7:32 am

BrokeBackJacket

You have no idea what you are talking about. UK Football games are always a sell-out and near capacity crowds are there rain, snow, or shine. So take that little horn and you know what I suggest you do with it. Hell UK did beat UGA this year in football, didn’t we?

Big Blue Nation

March 4th, 2010
7:40 am

Oh and by the way, UK’s Commonwealth stadium seats 67,606, or 80% of the Sanford stadium. Rupp seats 24,000, or 218% the capacity of Stegeman Stadium. You dig, or should I draw you a colored picture??

Queer Engineer's

March 4th, 2010
7:45 am

40 Players from the Great State of Bulldawgs were in the NCAA Tourney last year.
I hope we can start getting some of them? And oh yea…….Florida Sucks!!!!

AWJ

March 4th, 2010
7:52 am

Anybody that knew UGA basketball under Felton and has watched coach Fox and his team this year know what is happening in Athens for the basketball program. Great things are around the corner. The team is well coached and have played the game of BB like it has not been played in Athens in a long time. Fox has proven he can coach up mediocore talent and manage a game. His next hurdle is to prove he can recruit and bring in guys that can take this team to the next level. Once some of this incredible in-state talent realizes what is going on in Athens, look out folks. The East is wide open for the next couple of years and I think Georgia is going to have something to say about that. The diaper dandies from UK will be in the NBA next year. Congrats to Mark Fox and the UGA basketball team on an excellent building season and for future accomplishments.

BB Fan

March 4th, 2010
8:01 am

Great job Coach Fox, Georgia is fun to watch because they play so hard.

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Big Blue Nation

March 4th, 2010
8:03 am

UK will always have diaper dandies. The rich gets richer.