ATHENS — Georgia basketball has dropped six conference games in a row for the first time since 2009 when it started conference play 0-9 and coach Dennis Felton got fired.
Tom Crean is not about to be fired, but his first Bulldog team is inching up toward some records of infamy.
If they don’t get it together soon, they’re on track to log the fewest SEC wins since 1956, when Harbin “Red” Lawson’s team went 1-13 (3-21 overall). At the current rate, Georgia’s 2019 team could unseat John Guthrie’s 1974 squad for most conference losses with 16. The Bulldogs have dropped 11 games in a row a couple of times in their history, but not since the 1970s.
As bad as all that is, Crean and the Bulldogs (10-11, 1-7 SEC) insist they’re paying no attention to any of it. As ever, their focus remains in the absolute present. As it heads to Tuscaloosa for Wednesday’s night’s 9 p.m. tip (TV: SEC Network; radio: WSB 750-AM & 95.5 FM), Georgia is taking on a Crimson Tide team (13-8, 4-4 SEC) with its eyes firmly set on the postseason.
“It’s next game, next game,” said Crean, who went 6-25 and 1-17 in Big Ten play his first season at Indiana in 2009. “Really, it’s the practices leading up to (games). I am very well aware of (the losses). I am well aware of our shortcomings in games and I think they are, too. But it’s all a matter of learning from it and just trying to do what you can do to go at it.”
Senior guard William “Turtle” Jackson echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“Personally, I don’t really look at the record and numbers,” said Jackson, who’s averaging 5.8 points per game. “It’s all the about the next game. It’s all about what we learned in the last game and what we can take into our future games.”
At the moment, the Bulldogs are trying to get a handle on turnovers and on-the-ball defense. Neither has been very good of late.
Georgia is averaging 16.6 turnovers per game and has a turnover margin of minus-5.4 a contest. Both marks are the worst in the SEC.
It has been particular bad during the currently losing streak. The Bulldogs are averaging 17.5 miscues over the last seven games, which includes a win over Texas in which they had 26. Georgia came in below its average with 14 in last Saturday’s 86-80 loss to South Carolina, but 10 came in the second half, including three critical unforced errors as the Bulldogs got within three points after trailing by as many as 15.
“There’s a little game pressure that comes in there,” Crean said. “There’s a little of trying to make something happen. Every once in a while you’re going to get some hero action and that rarely ever works. It’s just them understanding how to keep the game simple.”
Generally, Georgia has been a decent defensive team. The Bulldogs are in the top third of the league in field goal percentage allowed (.414) and opponents’ 3-point shooting (.327).
But teams have shot 49 percent against them in the last four games, including 56.9 by South Carolina this past Saturday. Both the Gamecocks and Texas reached double figures in 3-pointers made with 11 and 12, respectively.
“In the game of basketball, you have to outscore the other team,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to rebound and take care of the ball. From simple basketball, to rec-league basketball, it’s something we’ve been developing and it’s something we work on in practice.”
The key for the Bulldogs is not falling behind by big numbers, like it did by 15 to South Carolina and 18 at LSU. If Georgia can limit the self-destruction it might be able to get off the Schneid. That needs to happen soon to avoid some of the records of infamy.
To do that, all Georgia can do is try to get a little better each day.
“It’s not a ‘kumbaya’ view; it’s a realistic view,” Crean said. “We have got to get better. It’s the only thing you can control. … We have to find a way to be in position to win the game.”
Said Jackson: “We’re hungry. We’ve been playing pretty well; we just haven’t been finishing games. The time to go on a run is now.”