Five observations as Georgia lost a heartbreaker, 72-71, at Ole Miss on Saturday night, dropping the Bulldogs to 8-5 overall and 1-2 in the SEC.
1. AN OPPORTUNITY BLOWN
Georgia led by as many as 15, late in the first half, and by four with 51 seconds left. That was after J.J. Frazier nailed a 3 from the corner, seemingly giving the Bulldogs a good cushiojn.
But Ole Miss’ Rasheed Brooks answered on the other end with a 3. Georgia’s Kenny Gaines missed a 3 on the other end, and Ole Miss didn’t call timeout.
Stefan Moody, the high-scoring guard for Ole Miss, drove through the defense and wound in the game-winning layup with 3.8 seconds left, It looked like Moody took a third step, including a jump-step, but no call was made.
Georgia got one last shot off, but Gaines’ deep heave was well short.
“The hard thing was that we had some key guys in foul trouble,” head coach Mark Fox said in a press release from UGA communications. “Yante and Charles each got four fouls very early in the second half, so we were not as good offensively once we got to that point. We kept battling and I was really proud of how hard we competed, we just couldn’t finish it.”
Yante Maten, who led Georgia with 20 points and nine rebounds, fouled out with 3:36 left in the game. He battled foul trouble the entire second half, but had stayed in the game, too valuable to sit down.
But cold shooting also plagued the Bulldogs, who at one point down the stretch missed 12 straight shots from the field.
2. ROAD WOES CONTINUE
The Bulldogs remain winless away from home this season, having now dropped their lone non-conference road game, at Seton Hall, as well as both SEC road trips, at Florida and Ole Miss.
Last year Georgia’s ability to win road games down the stretch was key as it earned an NCAA at-large bid. It has eight more opportunities, including a non-conference trip to Baylor later this month.
3. OGBEIDE KEEPS IMPROVING
When Maten went out, freshman forward Derek Ogbeide answered the call, including with what would have been one of the key plays of the game if the Bulldogs had won.
It was tied with 2:35 left when Georgia’s Charles Mann missed the second of two free throws. But Ogbeide squirted through, his man falling down, to grab the rebound. He put it back in to give Georgia back the lead. It also ended a run of 12 straight missed Georgia field goals.
Ogbeide had 10 rebounds, easily his most of the season, along with nine points. Ogbeide missed the first month of the season with a shoulder injury, but has steadily increased his minutes.
Now the question becomes whether Fox inserts Ogbeide in the starting lineup in place of junior Houston Kessler, who has experience but does not offer the upside, scoring or rebounding, of Ogbeide.
4. MATEN THE JUMP SHOOTER
The outside touch of the 6-foot-8 Maten was on display. He not only hit his first 3-pointer of the season, but also a series of outside jumpers to aid the Bulldogs’ offense.
Maten had 10 of Georgia’s first 25 points, helping it rally from the early 15-5 deficit. And as the Rebels came on early in the second half Maten stepped out to hit three long jumpers in a row.
The only fault, besides fouls, was free throw shooting: Maten went 1-for-4 during a critical stretch. The Bulldogs missed 10 free throws in the second half.
5. HELP FROM ELSEWHERE
Georgia’s NCAA tournament resume’ did at least get a boost well before it tipped off on Saturday night. And it had its rival to thank.
Georgia Tech upset No. 4 Virginia, which puts more luster in Georgia’s win over the Yellow Jackets last month. Of course what matters most is how the Yellow Jackets are by the end of the season, but for now Saturday’s game enhanced the chances that it could end up being a top-50 win for Georgia. The Yellow Jackets ranked 57th heading into Saturday.
There was also Baylor’s upset win at No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday. Georgia visits Baylor (12-3) later this month, so that would be another chance to get a quality win.
But the most important thing the Bulldogs need to do is get big wins of their own down the stretch. That’s another reason this one had to hurt them so much.