ATHENS – Mark Fox, normally one to unload his postgame thoughts in an opening statement, offered up just 13 words on Tuesday night, then looked at reporters and said: “Whatcha got?”
What had he just told his team in the locker room?
“That’s between me and my team, no disrespect to you,” Fox said. “Disappointing loss.”
The press conference ended a short time later, about half as long as usual.
Georgia has had some tough losses this year, but given the late stage of the season, and how much a quality win was there for the taking, this loss, 57-53 at home to Florida, seemed to hurt more.
“Time is definitely of the essence. We don’t have the time, we can’t afford slip-ups like this in close games,” Georgia freshman forward Derek Ogbeide said. “We needed to put them away. And that should’ve started tonight. But we couldn’t get it done. And that’s on us.”
1. FAILURE TO PUT AWAY
Georgia led by six at halftime, and was up by seven early in the second half, despite not playing that well, at least offensively. The Gators were just shooting much worse: They started 1-for-19 from beyond the arc.
Given all that, Georgia could have been pulling away. The fact it didn’t, letting its own offensive struggles keep the Gators in the game, proved costly.
KeVaughn Allen, Florida’s freshman guard, caught fire at the right time. His 3-pointer ignited a 15-5 Florida run, during which the Gators made four 3s.
Georgia did manage to pull back ahead, 44-41, and after a 6-0 Gators run a long 3-pointer by Kenny Gaines tied it. But Allen came up big again, answering with a 3-pointer. Georgia would continue to miss shots, and trailed by five as the final minute arrived.
“We should’ve put them away,” Ogbeide said. “We should’ve come out with higher intensity. We came out with the exact same, even flatter than we had, and they came out with a different mindset than us. We paid a toll for it with this loss.”
2. GEORGIA’S OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES
They were all around.
Yante Maten, coming off a 25-point game on Saturday, was held to just three points in the first half and 11 points in the game. He was 4-for-17 from the field.
“I wasn’t finishing plays at a high rate tonight,” Maten said. “I attribute that to their defense, but it was also me. I could’ve went up stronger. There were double-teams so I thought I had to make a move quicker. So it just came down to decision-making.”
Gaines was almost a non-factor until his last-minute barrage of 3-pointers. Fellow guard J.J. Frazier was held to 10 points, and was only able to get off four 3-point attempts. Only one went in.
Georgia finished the game shooting 32 percent from the field. But perhaps just as important was its inability to get to the free throw line: it was just 5-for-8 from the line.
3. NOT GETTING TO THE LINE
A big part of Georgia’s offensive problem was not getting to the line: It only shot eight free throws, while Florida had 21 attempts.
Fox was clearly upset about that afterwards. He got heated with the officials after a non-call on a missed layup by Charles Mann late in the game. But Georgia’s main problem may have been just not drawing enough contact.
“One of the things s we’ ve always been able to do is get to the free-throw line. We didn’t get in the one-and-one either half. So that made it hard for us,” Fox said. “You want to get some easy shots, you want to get some free throws in a game. Those are the things s that the teams that win get. Florida’s defense was very good. So we didn’t get a lot of east shots and we didn’t get many free throws.”
4. GAINES’ VALIANT FINAL MINUTE
Gaines did make it very interesting. He hit a long 3 that first hit off the top of the backboard before falling back in the net. Georgia had life, down 52-50 with 35.9 seconds left.
Florida got the ball to Chris Chiozza, one of its top free throw shooters, and he nailed both to make it a four-point game.
On the other end Gaines sunk another long 3, making it a 1-point game with 24.8 seconds left.
Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith then sunk both free throws, and it was 56-53.
Georgia got the ball back to Gaines, but this time he tried an even longer 3 with time still on the clock. It was well short, and Florida rebounded.
5. WHAT NOW?
Georgia’s NCAA tournament hopes are on close to life support after this one. This was a big missed opportunity, as beating Florida would have been another top 50 RPI win, only the second of the season for the Bulldogs.
Instead they fell to 14-10 overall and 7-6 in the SEC. Next up is a visit to Vanderbilt (15-11, 7-6), in a game that comes close to a must-win if Georgia is to enter the final two weeks of the regular season with any chance at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve just gotta get ready for the next one,” Mann said. “Stay together. Get ready for the next one.”