Heartbreak becoming the story of Georgia’s season

semerson@macon.comMarch 1, 2013 

ATHENS -- The image of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the player Georgia wants with the ball, dribbling the ball off his foot is one that will stick with the Bulldogs basketball team.

Of course, so was the image of Donte Williams being pushed at the end of the Mississippi game, and no foul being called. Or a last-second shot by Arkansas going in, one game later.

Lately, this Georgia team is getting used to last-second, heart-wrenching losses. Three times in the past four games, it played well enough to win, only to lose in stinging fashion.

“It’s like I told Kentavious, those things happen,” head coach Mark Fox said. “And over the course of a season eventually the breaks you think are gonna even out.”

Georgia’s final three regular-season games are all against teams fighting for NCAA tournament berths: Tennessee and Kentucky at home and then at Alabama to finish up. The hope for the Bulldogs (13-15 overall, 7-8 SEC) is they’ve now been steeled to disappointment so much that there will be no carryover from Wednesday’s loss at Vanderbilt, when:

1. They blew a 17-point lead.

2. Leading by one with 20 seconds left, Caldwell-Pope dribbled the ball off his foot, giving Vanderbilt one final shot.

3. The winning Vanderbilt basket, with 0.8 seconds left, bounced off the rim before going in.

Georgia players didn’t pretend they had quickly forgotten about the loss.

“I wouldn’t say it’s easier to shake off (because of the other losses),” freshman forward Brandon Morris said. “It definitely stings. It definitely hurts from a player’s perspective and as a teammate, because we want the victory so much, and when you fall short it’s kind of disappointing. But our strategy is to flush it and move on to the next one.”

But Morris admitted that was much easier said than done.

“We’re human,” he said. “We’re definitely gonna go back home, or when we’re not around the (teammates), or sometimes when we are around (each other), we’re definitely gonna think back on the loss. Because we were in the position where we could’ve won. It’s not like we were losing the 20 whole game. … It sticks with us as players, but we’ve just gotta flush it and move on to the next one.”

The next one sets up to be another tough one, even though Georgia has already won at Tennessee and in fairly convincing fashion. The Volunteers (17-10, 9-6) haven’t lost since that game, and after beating Florida on Tuesday, they are in contention for an NCAA at-large berth.

Georgia, meanwhile, is playing to avoid being one of the bottom four teams in the SEC tournament, which would mean having to play on the first day and win five games in order to win the tournament. The Bulldogs are safely ahead of three teams but only one game ahead of Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.

It seems that in order for Georgia to avoid the stigma of being in that bottom four, it will have to win at least one more of its final three games, and each game will be quite a challenge.

Fox’s hope is that his Bulldogs, who recovered from a 2-7 overall start, and 1-4 start to SEC play, can recover once more.

“This team’s been pretty resilient, and they’re gonna need to be resilient again,” Fox said.

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