ATHENS -- J.J. Frazier isn't sure why Georgia has been unable to play well early in games. Kenny Gaines wishes he had the answer, too.
But for whatever reason, the Bulldogs have sputtered out of the gate and have now lost four of their past five games, culminating in an 84-81 loss at Auburn on Wednesday. Only once in the past five games has Georgia scored more than 30 points in a first half.
It's one thing for Georgia to drop games against Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt.
To lose to the conference's second-worst team, which is in line for the conference's 13th seed at this year's SEC Tournament, speaks volumes about where this team is at.
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Gone is any chance of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Gone is the hope of recreating last season's success. And while technically not out of the question, gone is the likely chance of picking up 20 wins for the third consecutive season.
Frazier said it's time for Georgia (14-12, 7-8 SEC) to do plenty of self reflection after its worst loss, in terms of opponent and timing, of the season.
"As a competitor and as an athlete, there are things you go through, the ups and downs," Frazier said. "It's basketball. It's competition. That's why we have to look in the mirror and fix it. It doesn't matter how late in the season it is."
Head coach Mark Fox, like he has most of the season, pointed at Georgia's inability all year long to replace the production and leadership of Nemanja Djurisic and Marcus Thornton. Without the two big men, Georgia's ability to score inside has dropped significantly.
Perhaps a lack of a locker room presence has prevented the Bulldogs from being mentally ready for each game. Gaines said Georgia didn't seem to have the needed energy at the start against Auburn.
"I just say we weren't locked in as a team like we should be," Gaines said. "It's not the end of the season. We can still make it to where we want to make it to. We just have to keep pushing."
Gaines, to his credit, remains optimistic about his team's postseason chances. In reality, however, Georgia will have to win the SEC Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament. It might need to win its remaining three regular-season games and make a finals appearance in the SEC Tournament to receive an invitation to the NIT.
Despite some of its close losses earlier in the season, Georgia was sitting 13-8 only five games ago. The schedule seemed to shape out nicely, with a lot of winnable games.
What has transpired has been nothing short of disappointing for a team that entered the season with lofty expectations.
"This year, we haven't managed the ups and downs of the season as well," Fox said. "But we have to keep trying to scratch out wins."
Frazier knows his team is down and understands the situation clearly. But he's not ready to throw anyone under the bus and, in fact, shouldered the blame for Wednesday's loss.
Even though he scored a game-high 29 points, Frazier said his first-half performance wasn't where it needed to be and that he let his team down in that area. While the Bulldogs, who host Mississippi on Saturday, are on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason, Frazier is seeking a way to improve as the season winds down.
"I always believe in my teammates," Frazier said. "The one thing I've never done is quit. We're not going to quit. That's not who we are. Our coach isn't like that, we're not like that. We didn't play well. We just have to look in the mirror."