If college basketball games were only 20 minutes long, the Georgia men’s basketball team would be much happier right now.
After one half, the Bulldogs (11-8, 4-4 SEC) led the No. 17 Baylor Bears 35-32. However, the Bears came out strong in the second half, blasting out of halftime with a 21-4 run and paving the way for an 83-73 Baylor win.
“Give them credit,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “They really started the second half well. We could not stabilize our defense in the second half. They went on a big run.”
Here are five observations from Saturday’s game:
1. Deja vu
Saturday certainly wasn’t the first time Georgia played an opponent close.
The loss was the 11th time Georgia ended a game with a final score separated by 10 points or fewer. The Bulldogs are now 5-6 in such games.
The Baylor game was eerily similar to Georgia’s loss to LSU earlier in the week. In both games, Georgia played the opponent close in the first half only to be derailed by a slow start to the second half and have to claw back into the game to keep the final score close.
2. The postseason outlook
With Saturday’s loss, UGA’s path to the NCAA Tournament looks even more difficult.
Defeating Baylor would have been the signature win the Bulldogs have been looking for. Georgia’s Dec. 19th win over Georgia Tech is the only win Georgia has against a team ranked higher than it in the RPI this season. With that home win against a middle-of-the-pack ACC opponent counting as the team’s best win, it is easy to count Georgia out of the big dance.
However, the Bulldogs do have the benefit of a backloaded schedule. Six of the team’s remaining 10 games are against teams that – based off RPI – would be in the NCAA Tournament were the season to end today. A strong end to the regular season showing could put the Bulldogs in a similar position they were in last season when they earned an invitation to the NCAA tournament as a No. 10 seed.
3. Inside, outside
For most of the first half, Georgia held onto its lead with superior outside shooting. Led by J.J. Frazier, who finished the game with 21 points and four 3-pointers made, the Bulldogs shot well enough from long distance to break Baylor out of its 1-3-1 zone.
However, Baylor’s counter move was to pound the ball into the low post. The Bears outscored the Bulldogs 34-30 in the paint, helped mightily by Yante Maten’s foul issues. Baylor bullied the freshman duo of Mike Edwards and Derek Ogbeide with Maten on the bench, keeping the Bears in the game in the first half and opening the outside for the Big 12 behemoths to drain six 3-pointers in the second half.
“Where we had done a nice job taking the 3-point shot away and keeping them out of rhythm in the first half, they got rolling there for a couple minutes,” Fox said. “We didn’t stem the tide fast enough.”
4. Missing Maten
Before the game’s first TV timeout, Maten had already contracted two fouls. He played just two more minutes in the first half and quickly earned two more fouls early in the second half.
Due to the deficit, Maten played with four fouls for much of the second half out of necessity. Maten – who averages 15.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game – still finished Saturday’s game with 18 points and seven rebounds.
5. Ranked failures
When an opponent has a number in front of its name, Georgia doesn’t often win.
Georgia has not won a game against a ranked opponent since the Bulldogs beat then-No. 21 Missouri on Jan. 8, 2014. In all, Mark Fox-coached Georgia teams are 7-31 against ranked opponents and are now 0-2 this season with the other loss coming to then-No. 15 Texas A&M.
Georgia returns home to face South Carolina (19-2) on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. ET.