At the intersection of ineptitude and indifference lies Georgia basketball. - Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Fox's Georgia Bulldogs hung tough with Mississippi State for 31 minutes of Saturday's SEC men's basketball game, but the Red and Black ultimately fell to 0-2 in conference play in a double-digit setback.
Todd Grantham is also here, with his son. While Richt was content to sit alone six rows up, Grantham has grabbed a courtside seat.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) January 12, 2013
With members of the football coaching staff in attendance, Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs once again squandered a promising start with a second-half collapse. On this particular occasion, the beneficiaries of the Red and Black’s inevitable ineptitude were the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, so at least we got to see a Bulldog victory in some fashion, even though Georgia came up short by a 72-61 score.
Due entirely to the efforts of Jalen Steele, Mississippi State leapt out to a 5-0 lead two minutes into the contest, but Georgia fought back to within two twice, trailing by margins of 7-5 after a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope trey and 13-11 following another Caldwell-Pope three-pointer and a pair of Charles Mann free throws. There followed a scoring drought of more than two minutes for both teams before Kenny Gaines drained the foul shot that cut the visitors’ lead to one with twelve minutes remaining until the break.
Caldwell-Pope forged a 16-16 tie with a dunk a minute and a half later, but the Western Division Bulldogs surged back to take a five-point edge. Caldwell-Pope dropped in back-to-back shots from beyond the arc, then Brandon Morris added two free throws and a layup. Tim Dixon’s ensuing bucket staked the Red and Black to a 30-23 advantage, yet the next eight points scored were notched by Mississippi State to give the Magnolia State Mongrels a one-point lead. The back-and-forth battle continued until halftime, when the visitors headed to the locker room holding a 36-35 edge.
The Western Division Bulldogs shot 50 per cent in the first half, both from the field (13 of 26) and from outside the arc (5 of 10). The Eastern Division Bulldogs led in rebounds (21-18), takeaways (8-5), bench points (8-5), and points in the paint (14-12) in the opening 20 minutes, enabling the home team to hold edges both in points off of turnovers (7-4) and in second-chance points (10-5).
Following a pair of missed treys by Steele, John Florveus gave Georgia a one-point lead with a layup 66 seconds into the second half. A minute later, the score was snarled anew, and it remained that way through a series of misses by both teams before Mann made the layup that gave the Classic City Canines a 40-38 advantage. The close contest continued to see-saw between one team and the other, as Donte` Williams tied the game at 44 via a free throw with 12:05 on the clock, then Dixon knotted the score at 50 using a layup three minutes later.
It was at that point that matters began to get out of hand for the correct set of Bulldogs. The familiar script began to play out, as the Athenians’ efforts to work the ball inside consistently were stymied, Caldwell-Pope was neutralized, and the unfortunate combination of low basketball I.Q. and low-percentage shot selection proved fatal. A 12-1 Mississippi State run spearheaded by Steele and his pair of three-pointers left the Red and Black at a double-digit deficit with five minutes left, and the good guys never thereafter drew nearer than seven points from the eventual winners.
Against the Indiana Hoosiers and the UCLA Bruins in Brooklyn, our Bulldogs demonstrated the ability to hang with just about anyone for 30 minutes, but, against the Iona Gaels and the Youngstown St. Penguins in Athens, Georgia proved its inability to hang with just about anyone for 40 or more minutes. The Red and Black were tied with the opposition eleven minutes into the second half, but they were out of the game just over three minutes later. Coach Fox’s frustration at courtside was evident. He’s not the only one who feels that way about a Georgia squad that could commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Bulldogs’ 1983 Final Four run with a winless campaign in SEC play in 2013.