Determined or desperate. Perhaps Georgia is both, regardless of the preferred diction from its head coach.
Following Georgia’s 74-72 win over South Carolina, senior guard Kenny Gaines spoke about the need for his team’s level of play to rise to what was expected at the start the season. Following a stunning loss to Auburn over a week ago, Georgia has since reeled off consecutive wins over Mississippi and South Carolina while showing a more passionate brand of basketball.
Based on what Gaines had to say, it’s easy to see why.
"We played determined. To ourselves, we said we were a desperate team," Gaines said. "We wanted to come out and play desperate and finally get a road (win)."
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Gaines used both determined and desperate to describe his team. Head coach Mark Fox would prefer only the word determined when it comes to word choices.
"I told them I hate that word (desperate) and I don’t want to hear it anymore," Fox said. "Desperate means your panicking. We didn't need to panic. We needed to be determined. I don’t like that word. We need to be determined, not desperate."
Obviously, Fox doesn’t want his team to panic at this stage of the year. But reality is what it is. Georgia is a team that needs to beat Alabama on Saturday, reach the finals of the SEC Tournament, and for a lot of luck and surprise to occur if it’s going to somehow receive an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
Strange things have happened in the past, such as VCU receiving a play-in 11-seed in 2011 when no one expected it. VCU ended up advancing to the Final Four, rewarding the NCAA selection committee’s decision amidst a ton of criticism.
The Bulldogs (16-12, 9-8 SEC) know it’s an uphill climb to get back to the NCAA Tournament. So why not play a desperate brand of basketball? While the word desperate may invoke sentiments of worry and panic, Georgia wouldn’t be doing itself a disservice by feeling this way. After all, Georgia has gone on to win two games when it could have given up.
Being desperate for wins isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when you can’t afford another loss. Being desperate doesn’t mean you can’t also be determined.
"No matter how high the mountain looks or how tough the battle is, we’re going to find a way to get the job done," guard J.J. Frazier said. "Sometimes it don’t look great. As long as we get the job done, that’s all that matters."
The lasting quality this team may be remembered by – NCAA Tournament or not – is that it refused to fold when it could have after losing to Auburn. While this season hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations set at the beginning, the Bulldogs are still giving their all each time out.
Fox may not like it if Gaines, or any player, uses the word desperate to describe where his team is. It’s understandable, too. But based on how Georgia has played and acted since it began to feel this way, positive outcomes have appeared on the court.
"We don’t quit. People can count us out, write us off. It don’t matter to us," Frazier said. "We know who we are as a team, we know who we are as individuals. We take the identity of our head coach. He don’t quit, we don’t quit."