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Post Dawgs come up just short against Ole Miss

Thursday January 14, 2010

We’re disposed to treat a program in the position of Georgia basketball with kid gloves. That’s with good reason – any team has to be evaluated relative to expectations. Everyone realizes that the team is still building and that there’s only so much with which the new coaching staff has to work.

At the same time, the game is about absolutes. Wins and losses. Plays made or not made. Our guy matching up against their guy. In that world of absolutes, Georgia blew a good opportunity to knock off another ranked team last night. Georgia’s lack of depth was painfully obvious, and several good opportunities to score down the stretch were left just short at the rim. For a team with legitimate postseason expectations, it would have been a devastating home defeat that would loom large in March. For Georgia, it was a missed chance to land a big early SEC win and sustain the energy and enthusiasm that has been building in support of the program.

I doubt Mark Fox is very happy this morning. He was quick to distance himself from any of the patronizing pat-on-the-back stuff after the Kentucky loss by writing that “you’ll never cut open a winner and find they are good losers.” At any level of competition, these kinds of losses gnaw at you whether or not you were expected to win. It’s no consolation to Fox or the team, but it’s saying something that we’re left to dwell on the handful of plays that made a difference in a close game with nationally-ranked teams.

There was plenty to like last night. The start – even with the turnovers – was about as good as you’re going to see from Thompkins and Georgia. The Dawgs hung in and led at half despite playing Mississippi’s up-tempo style. They didn’t wilt when the Rebels made a push to start the second half and built a seven-point lead. They worked hard on the offensive glass to create 16 offensive rebounds. Travis Leslie contiunes to develop. Even when the shots didn’t fall, the offense created plenty of good looks even with the game on the line.

Georgia’s held their own against three ranked teams. Actually, if Missouri can handle Oklahoma this weekend, each of Georgia’s last five opponents will have been ranked at some point this year. But it doesn’t get easier with this stretch behind us. Mississippi State started the season in the polls and beat this same Ole Miss team. Tennessee and Florida are well known. Georgia has a lot to take from its results over the past week, and the consistency is encouraging, but landing that first SEC win is still a very important step in keeping things moving forward in Fox’s first year.

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