ATHENS – It started as a runaway for Georgia. Then it went double overtime. Then it went away, undone by a hot shooter and its own inability to get the shot it needed.
Georgia fell at home to Arkansas, 80-77, undone by an ability to get off a good shot at the end of either overtime – and after being unable to hold onto a 16-point lead for the second straight game.
It was the second straight loss and the fourth in five games for Georgia (12-7 overall, 3-5 SEC), which continues to have ground to make up if it wants to get an NCAA tournament bid.
Three days after blowing a 16-point lead at Auburn, the Bulldogs blew a 16-point first-half lead against Arkansas (14-6, 4-4). The Bulldogs then had to rally in regulation, first after trailing by six, and then when it trailed by two with 28 seconds left. Jordan Harris answered the call, nailing two free throws with 5.4 seconds left to tie it.
Georgia survived the first overtime when Nicolas Claxton blocked an Arkansas shot with seven seconds left. The Bulldogs then got the ball downcourt quickly but couldn’t get a shot off.
They had another chance in the second overtime, even after Arkansas’ Daryl Macon hit three straight 3s. It was a one-point game when Georgia had possession with 14 seconds left, and Georgia coach Mark Fox elected not to call timeout, saying later he didn’t want to give Arkansas a chance to set its defense.
But again the Bulldogs couldn’t get a close shot off, and after Maten missed a contested shot the ball went out of bounds with 2.2 seconds left. After two Arkansas free throws, Georgia could only manage a prayer by Maten that was well off.
Three who mattered
Maten: It was the ninth double-double of the year for Georgia’s senior leader, finishing with 26 points and 15 rebounds. But he was double-covered often, resulting in a 6-for-16 night from the floor.
Harris: The Georgia sophomore guard didn’t enter until 2.9 seconds were left in the first half, but had a big impact the rest of the game. He provided a spark on both ends, with a couple nice entry passes, and was part of several good defensive possessions down the stretch. And he hit the free throws to force overtime.
Claxton: The 6-foot-11 freshman was on the floor for the stretch run, and his length gave the Razorbacks problems on both ends. He stuffed a shot in the final seconds of the first overtime.
Georgia was on the way to an easy victory when it led 29-13. Arkansas had missed nine straight shots. But then the press started getting to the Bulldogs, and the Razorbacks roared back with a 15-2 run. It was anybody’s game heading into the second half.
Point guards: After starting both Turtle Jackson and Teshaun Hightower the past two games, only Jackson started, and he played the vast majority of the minutes. The results were mixed at best: Jackson hit four 3s, but Georgia’s half-court offense remained stagnant after the opening flurry.
Hammonds struggling: Highly-touted freshman Rayshaun Hammonds returned to the starting lineup after two games, but that didn’t spark his game. He was scoreless in 16 minutes, and was on the bench for the stretch run, including both overtimes.
Three of the last four Arkansas games at Stegeman Coliseum have gone to overtime.
Georgia returns to non-conference play, albeit briefly, with a road trip to Kansas State on Saturday at 2 p.m.. The game is part of the SEC-Big 12 Invitational.
What they said
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson on turning the game around: “We sped them up. I thought the first part of the game they pounded us and got anything they wanted to.”
Georgia coach Mark Fox: “We just came up one play short. …. I don’t think our offense was the issue. They made eight out of nine to finish the half, or seven, they shot 60 percent in the second half, I thought that was a far greater issue in the game, is that we didn’t consistently get stops for a large chunk of regulation. And so I would say that was a bigger factor in my opinion. We did a lot of things we wanted to do in the game, but obviously didn’t finish it.”
Fox on Georgia’s final possession in the second overtime: “We got exactly what we wanted. The timeout before we discussed, we’re not gonna call timeout, let’s get the ball to Jordan or Turtle and create penetration, and we did that. We got the ball to Yante on a pass and we wouldn’t want anybody else to take that shot.”