KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In the final seconds of yet another loss, the frustration of this season finally seemed to get to Mark Fox.
Fox, the head coach for a faltering Georgia men’s basketball team, was not going to be around for the final buzzer of a 73-62 loss at Tennessee. Upset with a non-call with 19 seconds left, he stepped toward referee Doug Shows and yelled. That drew a technical.
Undaunted, Fox moved an inch closer to Shows and yelled again. Shows called his second technical in a five-second span and gave the thumb.
Even then, Fox yelled some more, prompting Shows to point a second time toward the showers. Fox finally walked away disgustedly.
“I have no comment on that,” Fox said a few minutes later. “Not to be disrespectful to you, I know you’ve gotta ask that question.”
“I guess I have before,” Georgia senior Dustin Ware said, when asked if he’s seen Fox blow up like that. “Like I tell people all the time, there’s nothing more that you can ask for as a player out of a coach that’s gonna sit there and fight with you, game in and game out. So that’s one of the main reasons we all love him.”
Ware (15 points) was the main reason it was a game at all. But in the end Georgia (10-12, 1-7 in the SEC) fell yet again, continuing its spiral.
Despite Georgia’s struggles, there was hope for a surprise on the road. Its only SEC win this season was at home against Tennessee, and it was in Knoxville last year that the Bulldogs got perhaps their most critical win on the way to an NCAA tournament bid.
There will be no NCAA bid this year, of course, barring a miraculous run at the SEC tournament in New Orleans. The hope at this point for Georgia is to play competitively and avoid a last-place finish in the SEC.
For a time, Georgia outplayed the Vols on Saturday night. And it had Ware to thank.
The senior guard, who has struggled for much of this season, had another good shooting night. He scored 13 points in the first half, and his third 3-pointer of the night gave Georgia a 27-19 lead.
The problem for Georgia was foul trouble with its big men.
Marcus Thonrton, then Donte’ Williams, then Nemana Djurisic picked up their second fouls and went out. The foul situation was so dire that Rome, the tight end for the football team, saw his first significant action of the SEC season. And the even more rarely-used freshman John Cannon made a cameo.
“That was a huge factor in the game. I played a football player for five minutes in the first half just to try to stay out of foul trouble,” Fox said. “But you have to give Tennessee credit: They made some key 3-point baskets.”
Indeed, a series of key outside shots with the shot clock expiring propelled the Volunteers (11-12, 3-5) in the second half. Georgia had a seven-point lead early in the half, but it was ultimately undone by missed chip shots and perimeter defense.
“I think we competed hard. We just weren’t able to play defense throughout the whole 35 seconds of the shot clock,” Djurisic said. “They made a couple 3s in a row, and that killed us. That killed us.”
Fox belabored that his team does seem to be playing better but has few victories to show for it.
“That’s a step we need to take,” Fox said. “We play much longer spurts of quality basketball. We just have a burp or two in there we have to get past.”