In a game where fouls took away their best player, the Georgia men’s basketball team somehow almost pulled off an improbable comeback, but still fell at LSU, 89-85. Five observations after viewing the game back in Athens on Tuesday night.
1. A FURIOUS COMEBACK, A FRUSTRATING FINAL POSSESSION
After trailing by 14 late in the game, Georgia had the ball with a chance to tie or win in the final minutes. But with no timeouts, and less than ideal personnel on the floor because of its foul troubles, it couldn’t get the shot off it wanted.
A 3-pointer by J.J. Frazier had brought Georgia to within one. After two LSU free throws pushed it back to three, the Bulldogs took possession with 21.1 seconds left. Frazier took the open lay-up, then LSU’s Keith Hornsby made one free throw, then missed the second. It was Georgia ball.
But head coach Mark Fox had used his four timeouts already, and he didn’t have leading scorer Yante Maten, who had long ago fouled out. Still, he had Frazier (26 points), Kenny Gaines (20 points) and Charles Mann (19 points). The ball instead ended up with little-used freshman E’Torrion Wilridge, who missed a contested jumper with about four seconds left, and LSU rebounded. Two free throws with 0.1 seconds left finished it.
LSU led almost the entire game, but Georgia tied it at 39 early in the second half, on a three-point play by Maten. But LSU answered with eight straight points, then Maten picked up his fourth and fifth fouls.
But Georgia somehow rallied to within two, and a Gaines three-pointer that would have given Georgia the lead was off. LSU re-took control, however, pushing the lead back up to seven, then a torrent of 3-pointers pushed the lead to as many as 13, and it was seemingly over.
Georgia (now 11-7 overall, 4-4 in the SEC) needs road wins and wins over good teams to get back in the discussion for an NCAA bid. This offered both, but LSU (now 13-7, 6-2) prevailed. Georgia next visits Baylor on Saturday.
2. FOULED UP
The key number was 55: That was the amount of free throws LSU took, and the total number of fouls called in the game.
Thirty-three of them were on Georgia, including 10 critical ones – on Maten and his replacement, freshman Mike Edwards. Maten fouled out with 9:46 still left in the game. After a scoreless first half, Maten started to get going, only to foul out with 9:42 left in the game. He finished with a season-low five points and three rebounds.
Maten had more turnovers (two) than points (zero) in the first half, missing his only three field goal attempts. Edwards (seven points, four rebounds) fouled out with more than 10 minutes left.
“I was proud of our kids competitive spirit in the face of adversity,” Fox said after the game, according to a release from UGA communications. “I was proud of our players and I am proud to be their coach. To deal with all that and to have a chance to win says a lot. We don’t believe in moral victories, but I was proud of how these kids represented Georgia and how we fought.”
3. BURNED BY THE SUPPORTING CAST
LSU has Ben Simmons, probably the best player in the country, and Georgia knew he would get his points. But it was the rest of the team that ended up doing in the Bulldogs.
Tim Quarterman, a Georgia native who has had big games against the Bulldogs before, did again. He led LSU with 23 points.
Five Tigers finished in double figures, with Simmons “held” to 22 points.
4. FREE THROWS AGAIN
Statistically Georgia isn’t a bad shooting team; it entered ranked in the middle of the SEC. But when it plays in so many close games the free throw shooting gets magnified, and the misses loomed large again in this one.
Georgia went 15-for-24 from the line in this game, with Charles Mann going 7-for-12. Maten, normally a good shooter, had an 0-for-2 trip early in the second half.
Of course LSU was even worse, going 37-for-55.
5. FIRST HALF SCORING PROBLEMS
Once again, Georgia had a long scoring drought, and once again it was in the first half.
Sadly for Georgia, it’s 30 points on Tuesday night were actually the most it’s had in the first half over the past five games. The Bulldogs are averaging just 26.4 points in the first half over that span.
Early in Tuesday’s game, Georgia went 3:45 without a point and nearly six minutes without a field goal. Hence an early 18-9 deficit, which was eventually whittle down thank to the hot shooting of Gaines.