ATHENS — Yante Maten and his Georgia teammates were given a rare gag order on Monday, prohibited from discussing the Florida game. So Maten couldn’t opine two days later on the five foul calls that forced him out of the game, and perhaps cost his team what would have been an important victory.
But Maten painfully knows it’s importance for him to be on the court, and that’s emerged as a problem.
“I’ve just got to be smarter,” Maten said. “That’s really all it comes down to, is me being smarter.”
Maten leads Georgia in three critical categories: Points, rebounds … and fouls. He’s fouled out of three games – Oakland, Florida and George Washington. The first two were Georgia losses, the other one was a close win.
It loomed largest at Florida. Maten fouled out with more than four minutes left in regulation, and Georgia up by five. So he wasn’t around in the critical final minute, or for any of the five minutes of overtime. He wasn’t around to try to rebound a Florida free throw miss, which if he had might have iced the game for Georgia.
But it’s not even so much the fouls at Florida that stick out, but the types of fouls: They were almost all away from the ball, two of them on offense as he tried to clear space. Maten and his coach Mark Fox – who told Maten not to discuss the game – vigorously argued the calls, but they were made, and they have to take that into account going forward.
“I guess I’ve just been carried away lately trying to post up hard,” Maten said. “I’ve been doing a little too much, being too assertive.”
So how can Maten balance being aggressive but also keeping himself in the game? Fox hesitated a few seconds before answering.
“He can only control part of that,” Fox said. “He’s got to control what he can control. And he has to be mindful of situations, and play with great intelligence.”
So Maten can “only control part of that.” Who else controls that, Fox was asked – the reporter fully knowing the answer, and Fox knowing the reporter knew the answer. Fox smiled and acknowledged that, then again was diplomatic.
“Yante has to play with understanding of situations, and hope as the more experience he gets the more he’ll learn to manage all that,” Fox said.
In the past, Georgia has sent calls it disputes to the SEC office for review or interpretation. Athletics director Greg McGarity, when asked if that had happened this time, deferred to Fox, who then deferred to the SEC office.
“Out of respect to the league and obviously we have great respect for the league, every game we’ll submit something, and if you want specifics about that I’ll let the league comment,” Fox said.
Georgia (11-6 overall, 3-2 in the SEC) next hosts Vanderbilt (8-9, 2-3) on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. It’s a game the Bulldogs need to get to avoid the type of bad loss that would make their bid for the NCAA tournament even more difficult.
And to get the win, they probably need Maten out there as much as possible.
“He’s out best low-post scorer, and I think the best low-post scorer in the league,” junior forward Juwan Parker said. “It’s a big part of the game. I think he’s leading the team in scoring. So when a big part of your offense and defense goes down, it’s hard to adjust. It’s definitely a big key for him to be on the court.”