UGA’s Fox on his Hounds: ‘I think our team should be better’

Mark Fox got T'd up at end against Vanderbilt. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Mark Fox got T'd up against Vandy. He has cause for concern. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

There’s a difference between being better than you’re supposed to be and actually being good. Last season Mark Fox drew high-volume kudos –  I wrote he should have been the SEC’s coach of the year — for not going 10-20 in Year 1 in a difficult job. A year later Georgia could finish its regular season 20-10, but now we’re asking, “Is this all there is?”

The Bulldogs are 17-8, but it’s an unsatisfying 17-8. Their last significant victory came over Kentucky in the SEC opener. They’ve since gone 0-6 against teams of consequence, four of those losses coming at Stegeman Coliseum.

“There’s no question we’ve let a win or two get away,” Fox said Thursday. Then this: “I’m probably my biggest critic. I think our team should be better. And that’s my responsibility.”

It’s not as if the Bulldogs have been blown out by Nowhere State. All eight losses have come against teams ranked in the RPI top 50, and only the double-overtime loss to Florida has seen a margin greater than eight points. Said Fox: “We haven’t had a lot of breaks, but you have to create your own breaks. We’ve given up 10 offensive rebounds in the second halves of our last two games, and you shouldn’t give up 10 offensive rebounds in an entire game.”

Watching Georgia beat Kentucky on Jan. 8, I saw no reason why the Bulldogs couldn’t make a run at the SEC East title. Their starting five ranks with Florida’s as the league’s best,  and Fox is a sharp coach. But Georgia lost to Tennessee at the buzzer and to Florida after Erving Walker’s tying trey at the end of the first overtime, and Wednesday the Bulldogs wasted a 14-point lead and lost to Vanderbilt.

A year ago Georgia wasn’t very good but beat Tennessee, Florida and Vandy at home. This year a better team has lost to all three at home. Is this a case of a program unaccustomed to winning not quite believing, for all its gifts, it’s supposed to win?

Fox: “That’s a great question. Last year nothing was expected of this team. It was just a matter of picking ourselves off the mat after a loss we were expected to have. I think our team this year believes in each other, and I think they know we’re on the doorstep. But when you’re on the doorstep and the door doesn’t swing open, you’ve got to kick it in. We just haven’t kicked hard enough.”

Had Georgia beaten Florida on Jan. 25, it would have been tied with the Gators atop the East. Had the Bulldogs beaten Vandy last night, they’d have been alone in second place. They keep tripping over their moments, and even when they’ve won they haven’t dazzled. They needed a last-second free throw to win at Arkansas, needed overtime to beat awful Auburn and nearly wasted a 23-point lead at South Carolina. They act as if they haven’t gotten past the Florida loss.

Said Fox: “That was a bigger game than we were ready to deal with. We probably didn’t handle it as well as we should.”

(Oh, and if you’re wondering if Fox regrets not fouling Florida’s Walker at the end of the first overtime — Georgia led by three points with five seconds remaining — the answer is no. Fox took the same don’t-foul-when-up-three tack at South Carolina, and it worked. The problem was that Georgia was supposed to make Walker catch the ball going away from his basket, which it failed to do. Me, I’d have fouled.)

Georgia’s RPI is 44, which is near the danger zone. Even worse: The Bulldogs must play at Tennessee, at Florida and at Alabama. Lose all three and they’d enter the SEC tournament needing to win a game or two to make the NCAA field, and there’s no way a team this gifted should miss the Big Dance.

Asked if he believes his team is safe NCAA-wise, Fox said: “No, and if we’d won last night we wouldn’t have been OK. We’ve had some opportunities we’ve missed on, but we have more in front of us.”

And they do. These Bulldogs are much like the Georgia Tech of last season: Too talented to dismiss no matter how underwhelming results have been. But at some point the underwhelming must cease. Georgia has 3 1/2 weeks to find itself, or else it will find itself in the no-account NIT.

By Mark Bradley

133 comments Add your comment

rawdawg

February 17th, 2011
12:40 pm

Mark Bradley

February 17th, 2011
12:42 pm

rawdawg on a rawdawg-like run. Kudos.

missouridawg

February 17th, 2011
12:48 pm

These Dawgs need to be taught how to close the deal. No tourney for them until they learn how to win a game. Last night was just embarrassing.

5150 UOAD

February 17th, 2011
12:50 pm

You still have your Stalker I see Mark.

5150 UOAD

February 17th, 2011
12:53 pm

How many teams are in the NIT? With 68 in the NCAA how many good/watchable teams can the NIT find to play?

Dawgdad (The Original)

February 17th, 2011
12:59 pm

The turning point last night was Price coming off the bench in the second half. Yes, he is a better offensive player than Barnes, but Barnes held Festus down the first half, and Price doesn’t know how to play defense. Festus and the SEC scoring leader, whatever his name is killed us in the second half.

Think I read where Vandy hit 75% from the field in the second half, hard not to fall to that kind of barrage.

GT Trumpet

February 17th, 2011
12:59 pm

Very late 2nd/3rd. People must not be on lunch breaks, or are working very hard today!

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 17th, 2011
1:00 pm

NewnanDawg

February 17th, 2011
1:03 pm

You are right on with this one Bradley. I really don’t think they ever got over the UF and UT losses at home. I would be hardpressed to find any other reason this team can’t finish games; like you said, they have the talent and a very good coach. The only thing I have questioned about Fox is his unwillingness to bring in Williams (Vincent) when Gerald goes turnover crazy sometimes – if VW were at the point, it would also open Dustin up for more 3 looks. Of course, we are not privy to what happens in practice, so their is probably a very good reason that hasn’t happened.
Go Dawgs! – Get some quality road Ws!

BobDawg

February 17th, 2011
1:03 pm

I figured out when we hit 53 points that we had to get to around 60pts to win the game… We just went Ice cold from the field… Looks like we are very tight at the end of games now….

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 17th, 2011
1:04 pm

I guess the Nit would be a big letdown but after the last several years of Ga basketball thats a pretty good problem to have.

rlinaug

February 17th, 2011
1:05 pm

The Dawgs best player whines too much… he need to toughen up. He should be leading the way, not whining about every call. Whining is a sign of helplessness and panic, and that’s how the team looks at times.

GT Trumpet

February 17th, 2011
1:07 pm

But as for the article, your comparison is very true Mark. With Derrick Favors, Gani Lawal, and Iman Shumpert we should have gotten to at least the Sweet 16. But the lack of coaching had us losing in round 2, although close, to a very good Ohio State team. I just hope we can pull in a really good coach who can pull in the same amazing recruits Hewitt has. Can we keep Hewitt on as a recruiter?

Gordon

February 17th, 2011
1:07 pm

Georgia has been unlucky in some of their losses (Florida, Tennessee) but very lucky in others (Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina). They are right where they deserve to be. The still have a chance to get into the NCAA. Fox is a good coach, and as a Tech fan it is refreshing to hear the coach take responsibility for his team’s performance.

Barkin'Dog

February 17th, 2011
1:07 pm

Like the Auburn and SC games, the Dawgs looked fine in the first half, playing decent D, and holding their top scorer to no points. But when I saw the lead extend to 14, I thought, “If they don’t push it to 18 or more, Vandy will make a run and win.” Dang it, that’s what happened. Is it conditioning, coaching or character? The offense left the building with 10 minutes in the game. Are they getting frustrated by the calls, or lack thereof? Oh well… maybe they’ll make some noise in the SEC Tourney.

Dawglasville

February 17th, 2011
1:07 pm

We should be better. I have a lot of faith in Fox. We will just have to wait and see what we have in him. I have always tempered my optimism about Fox, just like I think the Tech fans should temper their optimism about Paul Johnson. In both cases I believe the current coaches better than what both schools had but it still has to be proven if these are the coaches who can win it all.

What??

February 17th, 2011
1:08 pm

Honestly, I think it is mostly attitude. Trey seems to disappear for long periods time. You need someone who will step up and make something happen when the team is struggling. We went something like 9:30 without scoring a field goal. Really?!?! That’s just pathetic.

What??

February 17th, 2011
1:09 pm

Also, what is the point of posting early in the blog if you aren’t going to say anything?

Vance Duly

February 17th, 2011
1:11 pm

The team is so frustrating to watch — for a few minutes, or a half, they can look like a Top 20 team. Then, in a matter of minutes, they can look like a Bottom 20 team….. In each game, it seems like one or two starters phone in a turkey of a game. In some games, the bench provides a contribution. In other games, the bench does absolutely nothing………. Frustrating…… Does this season’s performance increase the odds of Travis Leslie returning for another year? I don’t see NBA performances out of him so far…….

Hewitt fan

February 17th, 2011
1:12 pm

@Mark

Ga had 4 starters back and our underachieving,2 futrue first round picks.. Time for you to write 3 stupid articles saying fire Fox right? 2 straight no ncaa tournaments…You have something personal against Hewitt..just admit it..

Ted M

February 17th, 2011
1:13 pm

Fox – “I think our team should be better”

Hewitt – “We’re a young team” translation “so losing is expected”

NCAA Selection Committee

February 17th, 2011
1:15 pm

Georgia: Don’t call us-your tournament is spelled NIT.

Bucket

February 17th, 2011
1:20 pm

No disrespect against Tech intended, but this article is about UGA basketball. I love the turnaround and excitement that CMF has brought to the program. However, I think he made a tactical error in allowing/encouraging Mayfield from Franklin County to leave the program. Mayfield actually played defense on the perimeter. That is something that is sorely missing from this team. There is no way that Jenkins should have been allowed to shoot a 3 point shot with 2 seconds on the shot clock off an inbounds pass. Also, CMF has got to figure out a way to utilize Leslie’s athleticism in the open court.

Trooper Taylor's Backwards Hat

February 17th, 2011
1:24 pm

Fox- “we should be better.”

Hewitt- “we don’t make shots and the other team does. bad luck i guess..”

Dawg Fud

February 17th, 2011
1:25 pm

Fox is consistently being out-coached in the second half. Last night was the worst loss of the season, in my opinion.

I really like him but if he is not at least learning from this process then next year should be his last year.

Problems I see:

1 – we play fast break well, we don’t play half-court well

2 – Thompkins is not a leader and his draft status has suffered

3 – Robinson’s bigger role has mitigated Leslie’s ability to score

4 – we don’t have that “go to play” when our opponent starts a run on us

Mark Bradley

February 17th, 2011
1:26 pm

I would agree that Georgia doesn’t defend the perimeter very well. It’s second-best among SEC programs in field-goal percentage defense, second-worst in three-point-FG defense.

GTBob

February 17th, 2011
1:26 pm

UGA has been a bit of a strange team this year. Overall they should have been better then they have been. It’s not too late though. A late run and it won’t matter much. Although if they do make the NCAA’s then they are going to have stiff competition the first two rounds as they will more then likely be a double digit seed.

Dawg Fud

February 17th, 2011
1:27 pm

And our biggest problem is that we play at the wrong end of the court each half.

Why is our opponent not shooting at the student section basket in the second half???

So freaking stupid it drives me crazy.

Abnerish

February 17th, 2011
1:29 pm

With all the banging going on in that game, to call that foul on Price at the end was ridiculous, and then no foul on VAndy at the other end when it obvious Leslie was hacked. And the offensive rebounds were a direct result of Georgia players getting pushed out of solid position. I’m not sure what Mark Fox did to the refs, but they have been an obstacle the entire season. It’s like we are playing our opponents AND the refs. Hopefully, CMF’s statement to the kids is to not let the refs alter the game by getting far enough ahead to have it not matter. It’s clear we have to win the games we are supposed to and win at least one or two of the UF, Tenn, UA games.

Mark Bradley

February 17th, 2011
1:31 pm

Actually, I think Fox is pretty good at calling clear-outs for Thompkins. (Did it against Illinois last season; did it against Kentucky in Athens.)

What hurts Georgia, at least in my view, is the lack of depth. They don’t get much off the bench.

Ron Burgundy

February 17th, 2011
1:31 pm

Dawglasville
CPJ has won an ACC title, Commandeer in Chief trophies, Ga SOuthern titles, etc. so keep spouting that line but it doesn’t hold water,

CMF does have something to prove on the other hand.

Mark Bradley

February 17th, 2011
1:32 pm

You can blame that on the positioning of the Georgia bench, Dawg Fud. Coaches always want their offense in front of them in the second half.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley and Alex Ramati, Tim Tucker. Tim Tucker said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: #UGA coach Mark Fox on his underwhelming Hounds: "I think our team should be better." http://bit.ly/dYMbxp [...]

Reality

February 17th, 2011
1:34 pm

Reality…MF is a good coach and a good recruiter…not great yet!
Glaring weaknesses on this team include no go-to players other than Thompkins. Weak guard play, other than 3’s by Ware. No scoring from other bigs consistently. Haven’t learned to win yet. Spurts of good defense but breakdowns when the game is on the line. And just bad luck…Last second losses to tenn and fla were tough and winning those would have changed the entire season.
I don’t think this team will make the NCAA. I don’t see the toughness and gritty execution needed. Slam dunks for show won’t get it done!

Biff Pocaroba Fan Club

February 17th, 2011
1:37 pm

Georgia’s lack of depth off the bench (no depth actually) will definitely hurt in any close games come SEC tourney and (hopefully) NCAA tourney. Thompkins (like Big Dog Glenn Robinson of Purdue years ago) can’t do it all on his own.

5150 UOAD

February 17th, 2011
1:44 pm

Nice comment on the bench MARK
It sounds like the UGA ticket department is doing what it likes too. maybe Dawg FUD should send his comment to the ticket people. He does make a good point that the Students should be placed to effect the other team at the end of the games more.

Worm

February 17th, 2011
1:45 pm

With the athletes he has, he needs to play at a faster pace..Press, run the floor, set the tempo..Our half court game sucks when the threes aren’t falling..He can play 10 guys.

D A DoubleU G

February 17th, 2011
1:45 pm

A bulldog is not a hound.

sogadog

February 17th, 2011
1:46 pm

I respect a coach who says “Our team should be better and that is my responsibility.” I wish they all thought that way.

D A DoubleU G

February 17th, 2011
1:48 pm

Did anybody see the mugshot of the guy arrested for poising Toomer’s Corner?

This dude is the epitome of a Bammer Jammer

http://ww1.prweb.com/prfiles/2009/01/30/150204/YellaFellaProduct.JPG

Sds

February 17th, 2011
1:49 pm

I told you this team woudl choke and not make the ncaa tourney.
The only change you have is winning the conf tourney and seeing you did that a couple of years ago, it isn’t happening. Losing 3 straight, which you will and finishing the season 2-4 means no ncaas. 8-8 in the weak sec is bad.

jeff c.

February 17th, 2011
1:50 pm

Hey, at least you guys will be playing in the post season! Better than we can say :(

chem

February 17th, 2011
1:52 pm

Mark Fox is, in fact, underachieving with this bunch. That said, Thompkins isn’t ready for the NBA. He’s got the length, but needs to add some bulk and an outside jump shot. It’s harder to prove, but from what I’ve seen, his defense is nonexistent. He’s not as athletic when the ball isn’t in his hands. If he leaves this year, he’ll be riding the pine for some NBA team.

5150 UOAD

February 17th, 2011
1:56 pm

DA double UG
spell POISONING right and your argument would sound better.

duh....

February 17th, 2011
1:59 pm

its georgia….even worse, georgia basketball…..

El Perro

February 17th, 2011
2:00 pm

Please stop referring to the men’s basketball team as Fox’s Hounds. We are the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Not the University of Georgia Hounds.
This is just as stupid as when UGA had the “Harrick’s Hounds” T-shirts printed and passed out to the student section.

RaleighDawg

February 17th, 2011
2:01 pm

Mark – the dogs don’t get much off their bench because Fox chooses to only run six deep….not only has that cost him at the end of several games (particulary the last couple of weeks as we’ve lost large leads to several teams), but it’s going to bite him in the butt next year as this year’s freshmen aren’t getting the opportunity to get better and beyond as potential recruits have got to be looking at the lack of playing time for freshmen….but the root cause is Fox’s arrogance at not admitting problems with what he’s doing (I offer as examples the fact that we are 0-30 on jump balls and Fox’s reluctance to change up the offense when it’s clear every oppent’s plan now is to double team Trey whenever he gets the ball on the block )….it’s okay to make mistakes, but to keep repeating the same thing over and over gives me serious pause as to whether this guy is the real deal…don’t get me wrong – I’d rather have a winning record than a losing one and I don’t expect to win the NCAA, but this team should be performing much better than they have the last 4 weeks.

Go dawgs !

robodawg

February 17th, 2011
2:06 pm

We didn’t look that great last night. I hope we don’t come to regret in a major way letting that lead slip. We need to win a couple on the road down the stretch here. Tough place to be in, but it’s doable.

atlvol55

February 17th, 2011
2:08 pm

Mark:

I typically agree with most of your articles but you are missing several key pieces here (Didn’t you go to KY, I expect more on college basketball issues, lol).

1. UGA was able to sneak up on some teams at home last year. Now the KY’s, TN, Floridas, and Vandy’s are ready for Georgia. It becomes much tougher.

2. While I do think Fox is a pretty good coach, I have written several times that UGA just barely finished better last year than the year before. UGA was what, 5-11 in SEC play last year. Not exactly ready to “tear down the nets.”

3. UGA didn’t beat anyone of significance in the preseason. I believe UGA is now 2-9 against the RPI top 50. While I do think UGA has pretty good talent, why you actually thought UGA would contend for the SEC title is a little embarrassing. Too many good teams.

4. Just because you bring your players back from a mediocre team last year, doesn’t mean they are going to magically get a lot better.

5. Compare Georiga’s recruiting classes to TN, KY, and Florida the last four years in basketball. The amount of 4 and 5 star players isn’t even close between those schools and UGA.

I’m not trying to dog UGA fans, but I think the expectations were WAY TO HIGH. KY, TN, FL, and Vandy have established coaches and pretty good programs. Fox may turn UGA into a legit top flight team, but the competition in the SEC east is much better than most people think.

Andy

February 17th, 2011
2:09 pm

This has been a disappointing season. Even if they make the tourney they are likely one and done. Maybe next year.