LEXINGTON, Ky. – At one point, Georgia players looked to their coach, almost begging for him to stop it, even if it was temporary. Mark Fox refused, waving his arms forward. Play on. Play through it.
On a major stage, Georgia suffered a major embarrassment, run off the floor by Kentucky, 82-48.
It matched the worst loss of the season for the Bulldogs (13-9 overall, 6-5 in the SEC), tying the 34-point loss to Texas A&M last month.
“There’s not much to say about it,” senior guard Kenny Gaines said.
“Obviously we got whooped on both ends,” Fox said.
After a week in which it reinvigorated its postseason hopes, Georgia played like one of the worst teams in the league. Kentucky, not as good as it was last year, did hit a ton of shots, and looks like it might be finally figuring itself out.
But Georgia’s offense was the story, for the wrong reasons.
1. A horrible, long stretch on offense
Records weren’t immediately available, but this had to be up there for the worst offensive stretch in Georgia basketball history.
Georgia missed 22 straight field goals, not hitting one between the 13:37 mark of the first half – a Gaines 3 – and the 15:39 mark of the second half – a Charles Mann layup.
During the drought, Kentucky’s lead grew from six to 28.
Yante Maten, who led the Bulldogs with 16 points, summed up his team’s offense as “stagnant,” and then was asked why.
“Quite honestly I couldn’t tell you,” he said. “We just needed to be tougher and finish plays.”
Georgia finished the game 11-for-50 from the field, suffice to say its worst shooting percentage of the season. The problem for Georgia wasn’t just missing shots, it was its mess of a half-court offense, and just losing composure and taking bad shots.
J.J. Frazier airballed a long 3 on the break, and heard about it from Fox during a subsequent timeout. Derek Ogbeide missed five lay-ups, rushing up shots after rebounds. And yet several times the ball still ended up in his hands in the post, and early in the shot clock.
“When the score gets something like that, you kind of just make irrational decisions, kind of play a little erratic,” Gaines said. “I know it’s tough, but you’ve gotta try to stay solid.”
It didn’t help that Gaines, who does have the ability to create and hit his own shot, sat the final nine minutes after picking up his second foul. Without him, the Bulldogs just unraveled.
“We need to play better as a unit, which was evident tonight,” Maten said. “Our chemistry tonight, it wasn’t where it usually is. We weren’t really reading each other as we usually are on a day-to-day basis. It really hurt us tonight.”
2. What kind of team is this?
Georgia has now lost two games by 34 points in less than a month. In between, however, it went 4-2, both losses on the road, and a win over then-No. 25 South Carolina.
Fox was asked after Tuesday night’s debacle if he knew what kind of team he had.
“I think I know what kind of team we have. I think we’ve known all along that this team would be one that we hoped would keep getting better throughout the year, and tonight was a night where we showed some of the deficiencies that we have,” Fox said. “We have to play very mistake-free basketball to have a chance to win every night. Tonight we didn’t do that.”
Gaines, asked what a loss like this meant, tried to take the long view.
“Besides the score difference, I mean we lost a road game to Kentucky,” Gaines said. “It just happens. They played at home. They played well.”
3. First-half unraveling
What do you do when your team is going through such a bad stretch? Fox largely let his team play through it.
Fox used his first timeout with 5:19 left in the half, when it was still a seven-point game. It was while Frazier was at the free throw line, and he hit the second shot to make it 26-20.
But as Kentucky grew the lead, and Georgia flailed on offense, Fox held on to his three remaining timeouts.
It go so bad that with just under a minute left, as Kentucky made a basket to go up by 18, Georgia players looked to Fox, expecting him to call a timeout. But he didn’t want to use his second one of the half, and ordered them to play on. They did, and proceeded to miss another shot.
Fox did use his second timeout early in the second half, but by then the lead was up to 23.
“There were some bad shots in there. There were some good shots in there. There were a couple great shots in there that just didn’t go down. And it snowballed on us,” Fox said. “We never recovered.”
4. Frazier struggles
Well, everyone did for Georgia, but its leading scorer this season symbolized the frustration.
Frazier tied his season-low with four points, and didn’t make a field goal for the first time this season. The junior guard missed all 8 shots he attempted from the floor, half off them 3s.
He came in averaging 16.8 points this season, and 19.6 points over the past six games.
Frazier was also held to six points in the 34-point beat-down to Texas A&M earlier this season.
5. The big picture
As bad as it was, on paper the loss might not hurt Georgia too much in the long run.
As far as its NCAA resume’, it only hurts Georgia by being another missed opportunity for a quality win, and it probably needs a couple more to add to the total. Right now it’s resume’ rests on the win over South Carolina.
The path to an NCAA bid for Georgia is probably this: Avoid the two bad losses left on its schedule – Saturday at Mississippi State and Feb. 24 at Auburn – and then find three more victories. Home games against Florida, Ole Miss and Alabama remain, along with trips to Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
Georgia’s RPI rank (67) entering the day needs to improve about 20-30 points, but a good finish to the regular season would probably accomplish that. Its schedule strength rank (27) is good, and there are no bad losses on the resume’ yet.
The worry for Georgia is the so-called eye test. Georgia certainly flunked it at Rupp Arena.