ATHENS -- The final, frantic rally could have been something to hang a hat on. It would have been more if Gerald Robinson’s 3-pointer had been good. The same goes for Nemanja Djurisic’s try.
Somehow, a Georgia basketball team that trailed 12 when the final minute began had a chance to force overtime. Many struggling teams would have used that as positive reinforcement.
Instead, the Bulldogs basically ignored that final minute when dissecting their 66-63 loss to Mississippi on Saturday.
“No one’s pleased,” Robinson said. “Almost doesn’t count. There’s no second place, and we lost. It’s just a loss.”
“We didn’t deserve to have a chance to win it, in my opinion,” head coach Mark Fox said.
The sentiment was understandable.
For 39 minutes, Georgia was thoroughly outplayed at home by a team not considered one of the elite teams in the SEC. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 15, and Fox said his team didn’t play with any urgency when it came to defense, rebounding or anything.
The long view was that Georgia (10-9 overall) dropped to 1-4 in the SEC. The loss stunted any momentum gained by Wednesday’s overtime win over Tennessee.
“It has a lot to do with immaturity and bad leadership,” senior guard Dustin Ware said. “We have a lot of young guys, and they’ve gotta be able to bounce back. But at the end of the day, it comes down to the seniors and making sure that they’re ready to go and making sure that they’re ready to do the things that we have to do every day to win.”
One of those young players, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, showed once again why he is Georgia’s top player.
The freshman finished with 25 points, a season-high for any Bulldogs player this season. His final points came on a long 3 with 30 seconds left to make it a four-point game.
But Caldwell-Pope fouled out on the next play. So he wasn’t available when Georgia got the ball back in the final seconds.
Ole Miss (13-6, 3-2) opened the door by missing free throws in the final minute. When Terrance Henry missed the second shot with 9.3 seconds left, Georgia got the ball downcourt, and Robinson tried a 3 from the corner. It missed, but the long rebound ended up with Djurisic, who also couldn’t get his shot to fall.
“It’s certainly not the way we would have drawn up finishing the game,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “But the bottom line is they got it done.”
Caldwell-Pope’s foul trouble was part of the reason Georgia fell behind in the first place. The game was tied at 20 when he picked up his second foul with 8:02 left, exiting for the rest of the first half. Ole Miss proceeded to go on a 10-0 run and led by 11 at the break.
But the Bulldogs’ issues went deeper than just the absence of their best player. Once again they were dominated on the boards (this time by a margin of 11), the interior defense was poor, and the outside shooting wasn’t great.
“We didn’t put ourselves in position to win the game,” Fox said. “We fought a little bit at the end but we can’t just play behind the whole game and expect to pull it out at the end.”