ATHENS — Georgia is a great basketball team for short stretches. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it can be horrible for even longer spans. That pattern was well-established again Saturday against Ole Miss and it resulted in an eighth straight SEC loss, 80-64, at Stegeman Coliseum.
Wearing retro home-white uniforms on the occasion of Letterman’s Day, Georgia shot ahead out of the gate. The Bulldogs made their first three 3-pointers and shot 71.8 percent from the floor to build a 10-point lead four minutes in. But the Bulldogs went from up 18-8 to down 45-33 by halftime after entering into their worst turnover stretch of the season. That is saying something for the SEC’s worst ball-handlers.
Georgia lost possession of the ball 16 times in the final 15:11 of first-half play. That solicited what’s thought to be the first home-crowd boos of the season. And they were well-earned.
Nowhere was it more stark than the final seconds of the half. Georgia turned the ball over on a 5-second violation trying to in-bound the ball under its own basket after a timeout with 5 seconds remaining in the half. Then, Ole Miss gave the ball right back to them on a traveling violation, Tyree Crump was called for a push-off foul trying to get off a final shot.
That gave Georgia a season-high 16 turnovers for the first half. The season-high, game total of 26 against Texas seemed in easy reach. Remarkably, Georgia didn’t come close, adding just four more in the second half to finish with 20. But it also never seriously threatened the lead again either. The damage had been done.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 10-13 overall and 1-9 in the SEC. It represents Georgia’s worst stretch since 2009 when it lost the first 10 conference games and 11 in a row overall. That resulted in the February firing of coach Dennis Felton and a final 3-15 SEC record.
Ole Miss improves to 16-7 overall and 6-4 in its first season under coach Kermit Davis. Junior guard Breein Tyree led the Rebels with a career-high 31 points.
Georgia was led in scoring by Rayshaun Hammonds with 10 points. But the sophomore forward also led the Bulldogs in turnovers and fouls with five each. He fouled out with 4:47 to play.
The Bulldogs also were out-rebounded by the much smaller Ole Miss team 38-32. The offensive struggles continued for 6-11 forward Nic Claxton, who was scoreless in the first half and finished with 8. Guard Jordan Harris was the leading rebounder with 10.
It could get better. The Bulldogs next travel to Texas A&M, which came into Saturday sharing an equally lousy 1-8 SEC record. Georgia’s next home game is next Saturday against LSU, the SEC’s second-place team.