ATHENS – In the moments after what the Georgia basketball team can only hope was rock bottom, Mark Fox sounded exasperated. It was Wednesday night, and his team lost by 15 at Vanderbilt, the worst team in the SEC.
“I know it’s frustrating to our fans. I’ll take full responsibility,” Fox said during the UGA postgame radio show. “I can’t get this group right now to play as hard and as effectively as we need to.”
Fox was asked to expound on that Friday afternoon as his team prepares to host No. 8 Auburn. But Fox, whose current team and his coaching future at Georgia both seem on the brink, didn’t want to get into any over-arching analysis. He tried to temper those comments.
“I don’t think it’s our lack of fight,” Fox said, pointing to Vanderbilt’s outside shooting in the second half, crediting both the offense and defense for that. He added later: “I was frustrated that we’ve been a very good defensive team. And for a couple years in a row we’ve been a really good defensive team, and at times this year we’ve been very good defensively. We were not very good the last week. I’m frustrated with that, no question.”
The defense has nosedived in the last week, but the team’s overall slump has been going on for longer. Georgia (13-10 overall, 4-7 in the SEC) has lost seven of its past nine, its NCAA Tournament chances taking a severe hit.
Senior forward Yante Maten, the team’s best player, said the days after the Vanderbilt loss have been spent “analyzing, boosting morale” and getting ready for the next game. But Maten also didn’t paint the picture of a team in disarray or lacking confidence.
“I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with the team. We’re just going through a slump,” Maten said. “But we’re just trying to make sure we do everything we can to win the next game. I mean, we’ve addressed all the things.”
Maten ticked off four main areas: playing better offensively, getting more stops, rebounding and shooting free throws. That, obviously, is a lot of ground to cover. That’s reflective of a team that has lost two straight games by 15 as the Bulldogs have.
And it’s come with Fox trying several different lineups, giving different players (Tyree Crump and Nicolas Claxton) their first starts of the season. Nothing seems to work.
“We just haven’t had some consistent play,” Fox said. “We’re just trying to find the combination that works. It’s been a little bit of a challenge, there’s no question about it. But I think these guys are still committed to trying to find that rhythm again.”