ATHENS – Georgia lost the game, the winning streak and all semblance of the confidence and offense that had turned around its season.
Now the question is whether a 52-45 loss to Alabama is a one-game blip or the start of return to the early season troubles. The Bulldogs basketball team was sloppy on offense, overly reliant on its star and saved its worst defense for the worst time. In short, Georgia looked like the team that started the season 2-7, rather than the one that had won five in a row and back into respectability.
“We were rushing everything, taking dumb shots, turning the ball over instead of taking care of the ball, and having bad shot selection,” said Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the star who carried the load with 22 points.
“We didn’t have that confidence shooting. We didn’t have a lot of guys stepping up, making those shots,” said Nemanja Djurisic, who had 12 points, but only one in the second half. “And I think defensively we weren’t as aggressive.”
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That was true, and achingly so for Georgia, just when it seemed to have grabbed the game back.
After trailing for most of the game, Caldwell-Pope propelled the Bulldogs back into it with seven straight points. Then a dunk-back by teammate Donte’ Williams gave Georgia a 41-40 lead with 2:36 to play. The announced crowd of 5,385 at Stegeman Coliseum was roaring.
It only took Alabama 16 seconds to respond: Levin Randolph drained a 3 from the right side.
One possession later came the back-breaker: Rodney Cooper nailed another 3, from almost the same spot, to make it 46-41 with 1:36 left.
“We thought we were gonna go on a run when we went up 41-40,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We just couldn’t get a stop on the other end. It really was a game-changer.”
It was a tough loss to take for Georgia (12-12 overall, 6-5 in the SEC), which was hoping to prove it belonged among the elite in the SEC. None of its wins had come against a team with a winning record in the SEC; Alabama (16-8, 8-3) hit the shots when it needed to, while Georgia made “too many errors to win,” according to its head coach.
Mark Fox’s postgame news conference lasted 82 seconds. He took two questions then left.
“We did not have a very good spirit about this game, but we’ve got to be more mature than that,” Fox said during his brief appearance. “We had some unintelligent plays throughout the game. We did some things tonight that we haven’t done in over a month.”
Georgia actually started out well, jumping out to a 15-6 lead. Then came Alabama’s first flurry of shots, an 11-0 lead to take its first lead.
It had been 102 minutes since the Bulldogs even trailed in a game, dating back to the first minute of the second half at South Carolina on Feb. 2.
As Fox said, the Bulldogs reverted to things they had been doing prior to the streak: They ended up shooting 31 percent from the field, and 5-for-22 from beyond the 3-point arc. The free throw percentage was barely better.
But Alabama didn’t play much better, leaving the door open. At one point in the second half the game went 4:08 without a point by either team.
When it ended, Caldwell-Pope described the locker room as being “quiet” but also with “anger.” There was a frustration at not finishing basket, or finishing games, as they had the past month.
Now it’s on the road for two challenging games, at Ole Miss and Arkansas.
“We’re still looking to win games,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We just gotta stay together. We’re all we have on the court, and we’ve gotta keep that within us, we’ve gotta play hard together and we just gotta keep finishing baskets, and finishing games like we’ve been doing.”