Georgia's biggest moment came in conference opener

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Basketball navigated a lackluster preseason but turned their season around with a 70-64 win over Missouri in the conference opener.

After finishing tied for second place in the SEC's regular season, many Georgia fans were left wondering "what if" in regards to the Bulldogs' lackluster performance during their non conference schedule. If Georgia had managed something more impressive than a 6-6 record then they could have been looking at a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Something changed for the Bulldogs once conference play began and that came in the unlikeliest of places in Columbia, Missouri. To set the scene properly, Georgia had just suffered back-to-back lopsided losses to Colorado and George Washington to wrap up the non-conference schedule. Up next were the Tigers who were ranked No. 21 at the time and riding a 26-game home winning streak.

Mark Fox returned to Athens with his team after the loss to George Washington and then immediately flew home to Garden City, Kansas to see his dad who was battling lung disease. The elder Fox passed away before his son got there.

Fox rejoined his club in time for their game against Missouri and the Bulldogs responded with their most spirited and complete performance of the season.

After keeping things close for the first half, Georgia refused to go away thanks to a solid performance from Charles Mann and an interior defense led by a suddenly healthy and spry Marcus Thornton. Missouri tied the game in the final minute to force overtime but the Bulldogs didn't blink even when facing a five point deficit with under three minutes remaining in the extra session.

Georgia closed the game with a 12-1 run and an emotional Mark Fox spent the final moments sitting on the Bulldogs' bench with his face planted in his hands.

It was a big moment for the Bulldogs who defeated Alabama next to move to 2-0 on the season. They rebounded from a loss to Florida with a pair of wins over Arkansas and South Carolina for a 4-1 start to the conference season.

Three straight losses followed and dropped the Bulldogs back to .500 but they again responded by winning eight of their last 10 to finish 12-6 and tie Kentucky for second place in the SEC's regular season standings.

Resiliency is a good term to use to describe this Georgia team. Its not the most talented group by any means, but they came together and forged one of the best conference seasons in the program's history and it all began that day in Columbia.

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