Georgia has endured four close losses in the past month.
First, there was the game at Florida on Jan. 14 that went to overtime. The Bulldogs lost 80-76. Then there was the blown lead in the final two minutes at Texas A&M on Jan. 21 that concluded with an official’s error on the game clock. Georgia lost by one, 63-62.
Last Tuesday, the Bulldogs traveled to Kentucky and went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best teams, even if guard De’Aaron Fox wasn’t available. Again, this game went to overtime with Georgia falling 90-81.
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And on Saturday, Georgia (13-10, 4-6 SEC) dropped another close game, this time to South Carolina, 77-75. Needing big wins to aid its NCAA Tournament resume, the Bulldogs have come up on the wrong side each time.
While potential quality wins still exist on Georgia’s schedule, time is beginning to run out with only eight games remaining and 10 losses.
“We just got to stop making a couple of errors and finish a couple of plays,” Georgia junior forward Yante Maten said. “I could have finished better around the rim. That’s something I can work on. Everyone needs to figure out what they can work on and just get a little bit better so we can get over that hump.”
A win over the Gamecocks (19-4, 9-1) would have been a huge boost for a Georgia team that entered the day ranked No. 50 in the RPI. It’ll certainly fall out, but could creep back in with a home win Tuesday over Florida.
Georgia has proven it can play with the conference’s best teams – Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida. But it has now lost four times to those teams, all by single digits.
Georgia’s next game against the Gators is now a must-win situation. A loss could all but end Georgia’s hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
“I think we’ve had four (close) losses here,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “I feel for our young people. But we gotta find a way to make one more play and one less mistake, and keep competing. Certainly it’s been frustrating for our team.”
While Georgia has done some good things in each of its close losses – scoring efficiency, defending well out of the zone – it’s repeated the same kind of mistakes over and over. Against the Gamecocks Saturday, Georgia turned the ball over 15 times. The Bulldogs packed the paint to defend the interior but were unable to close consistently on South Carolina’s shooters, who went 45.8 percent from behind the 3-point line.
While Georgia outrebounded South Carolina 36-28, the Gamecocks scored 16 second-chance points to the Bulldogs’ seven.
With the schedule winding down, Georgia desperately needs a win over a quality opponent.
“As a competitor, I don’t like to lose,” senior guard J.J. Frazier said. “As the leader of this team, I’ve got to somehow get it behind me. But I’m frustrated. I turned the ball over five times, didn’t make plays when we needed to make a play.
“But we don’t have no choice but to put it behind us. We have a really good team coming into our place on Tuesday. We’ve got to be ready and determined to get a win.”