ATHENS — It was near the end of a media session Tuesday that contained more questions about Georgia’s last game than the next game. Mark Fox, his team coming off that bitterly disappointing, and controversial, loss at Texas A&M, was asked about the inability to finish with late leads, including the previous week at Florida.
“If you want to talk about the end of the Florida game or the end of the Texas A&M game, like I said last week, call the SEC office,” Fox said, leaving it at that.
It was a not-so-subtle message about what Fox saw as questionable calls at the end of the Florida game, and the bizarre finish at Texas A&M. But Fox also cast blame on himself. He said he looks back at decisions he makes in every game, wins and losses, and it was no different for last Saturday.
“I could have done a couple things differently. I’m not sitting here blaming the players,” Fox said. “We all could have done some things differently. But you do that after every game. But you can’t live through the rear view mirror.”
Indeed, Georgia (12-7 overall, 4-3 in the SEC) has to recover in time to get a home win Wednesday night against Alabama (11-7, 4-2). But in Fox and his players first media session since that Texas A&M debacle, what happened at the end still dominated discussion.
For all the controversy over the clock, the reason Georgia was behind in the first place was it committed four turnovers in the final two minutes, allowing Texas A&M to rally from nine points down. The Bulldogs were flummoxed by the full-court press, unable to inbounds the ball properly several times.
Asked to diagnosis the miscues, Fox answered: “We didn’t have a pass-and-catch. We had a little bit of a slow pass on one. J.J. (Frazier) just didn’t catch the ball, that’s just a physical mistake. We had two offensive fouls in the frontcourt in the last three-and-a-half minutes. So certainly we’ve been able to look at that.”
Frazier, for his part, pointed out that three Bulldogs fouled out at that point: Power forwards Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards, and small forward Juwan Parker.
“We had players in the game who were playing positions we haven’t practiced, or they haven’t practiced,” Frazier said. “At the end of the day it’s a learning experience for us. I think we have to get better there. But that’s the first time being in that situation and we didn’t handle it well. But I think the next time we’re in that situation we’ll be better.”
Back to the clock malfunction: Frazier was the one handling the ball when the clock stopped, and he said he looked up at the clock to see how much time he had. So he thought he had 5.6 seconds left, dribbled a bit more and then passed to Yante Maten, who was fouled. But the officials, using a stop-watch, determined that Maten had been fouled after time ran out.
“Obviously if I knew I had two seconds less I would have made a different play,” Frazier said. “But it is what it is, it happens. We can’t dwell on it, we’ve got to move on. And that’s what we’ve done.”
Fox, upon being asked, said he intended to present the issue at the NCAA basketball rules committee, of which he’s a member, to see about changing the rule.
“No question, I’ll work when the time is right to try to find a solution that can be fair to teams that are in that situation,” Fox said.
But that’s for after the season. In the meantime, Georgia finds itself once again having to get off the mat emotionally. They’ve done that every other time this year, never losing two games in a row.
But this loss, it appears, was the most gut-wrenching.
“I think our players obviously have had some adversity. And their resolve has been tested a bit,” Fox said. “But we’ve got good character on this team, and kids that understand how to win, and have won. And they’re being tested. They’ll bounce back, and we’re confident that they’ll keep fighting forward.”