ATHENS -- Mark Fox was unwilling, two weeks ago when his Georgia men’s basketball team was on a hot streak, to agree with the idea that his team had found its identity. The past three weeks showed why.
Now Georgia is at what players agree is a critical point in the season, and Fox still isn’t sure how his team will respond.
A win Thursday over against LSU, which is threatening to get in NCAA tournament contention at 14-6, 5-3 SEC, would restore some hopefulness to the season for Georgia (10-10, 4-4).
But a loss would put Georgia back under water, its season threatening to careen away.
“This has never been a group that had great confidence, and you have to be mindful of that as a coach,” Fox said. “But they’ve also won some good games and beaten some good teams this year. They have to understand how that happened, look at the mistakes they made in the last week, some of it out of our control, but some of it in our control. Look at both sides of it and get back to playing in a way that gives you a chance to win.”
Fox said that lack of confidence has manifested itself on the court, with players not taking control of games. Players are still struggling to grab control of games and take big shots. Once again, and more than halfway through the season, Fox invoked the absence of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, last year’s SEC player of the year who left for the NBA draft.
“With Kentavious leaving, who’s the guy who’s gonna be your lead-dog scorer. Who’s gonna have the most confidence to make plays? I think that’s probably the area that was the most evident, because we lost our leader, and we lost our best player, and those guys are stepping into (new) roles,” Fox said. “We’ve got some sophomores playing roles that are rather large. I think early we weren’t real confident with that, and it takes some time to get real comfortable in a big role.”
The middle of the SEC is clogged, but the standings aren’t as important for Georgia right now. The emphasis has to be on stemming the bleeding, after a three-game losing streak derailed the momentum built up from its 4-1 start to SEC play.
“Of course you want to be in the upper half of the SEC,” Fox said. “We’re at 4-4 right now. We’re tied for sixth with a couple teams. Winning this game on Thursday would put us right there in the top three. So yeah, this is a critical point, in which we want to win, and we need to get things going around this point right now.”
Junior forward Marcus Thornton put it more succinctly.
“I think at this point it’s time to get over the hump,” Thornton said. “That’s kind of how guys are looking at it.”