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Post Not a night to remember for Georgia basketball

Friday February 25, 2011

I can’t say much for the men’s loss at Florida because I was following score updates while watching the Lady Dogs at Stegeman Coliseum. The pattern of giving up a halftime lead seems to have held for the men, and that’s just what we’re going to have to expect from the team the rest of the way.

Leslie and Thompkins had a good game, the team actually shot 50%, and they outrebounded Florida. But outside shooting was rough, the Price+Ware index was a low 10 points, and Georgia turnovers led to over 20 Florida points. Add in Boynton’s timely three-pointers, and there’s your game. You’ll get better recaps from Bernie and Seth Emerson.

File this one away with the Vandy games and the home Florida and Tennessee games as tough ones that would have been nice to win but which aren’t terribly crippling to lose. That changes for the next couple of games: Georgia’s presumptive status of being on the right side of the bubble requires home wins over South Carolina and LSU.

It’s been a while since I’ve left Stegeman Coliseum as sick as I was last night after the Lady Dogs fell to Auburn. It wasn’t a particularly heart-breaking loss as the key plays were made with a few minutes left. It was just…bad. I know exactly what Andy Landers meant during his postgame show when he said that there just wasn’t much to talk about – it was just an ugly loss in a very winnable game with so much on the line at this point in the season. A team that looked purposeful and energetic a week ago in a dominant win over Kentucky just wasn’t interested in doing the things that would put away a game that was there for the taking.

You can start with the missed layups, go on to the 12 second-half turnovers that led to 20 Auburn points, and move on to the slow help defense. Auburn had far more points in the paint than Georgia (32-20), but their top three scorers were wings or guards. They consistently penetrated, hit layups, drew fouls, and made easy passes when the help was slow. On offense, Georgia again settled for a high number of three-point attempts – 24 – and connected on just a quarter of them. When the Lady Dogs tried to work it inside, the passes were often mishandled. “We throw the ball inside three times in the first half, and we don’t catch it,” said an exasperated Andy Landers. “That’s a problem.”

Unforced turnovers killed several opportunities to extend the lead for Georgia. The Lady Dogs led 22-16, had the ball, and Porsha Phillips misread a cut, throwing the ball directly to Auburn’s Alli Smalley who turned the steal into a layup. Georgia built a seven point lead midway through the second half and had a chance to go up nine. Porsha Phillips established position underneath, but Anne Marie Armstrong made a flat entry pass that fell short. Armstrong was slow to recover and get back on defense, and Auburn was off on a 10-0 run that changed the game.

Making things worse was the absence of freshman guard Ronkia Ransford. The McDonald’s All-American will be held out at least through the SEC Tournament for academic issues. Landers sounded like someone at the end of his rope. “If she doesn’t get her academic act together, she won’t be back,” he explained. “Why should she? You don’t go to class, you don’t go to school, you don’t meet your appointments, what are you doing here?” Without Ransford, Georgia’s rotation is pretty much down to seven players with Armstrong and Willis coming off the bench. There’s very little relief for Jasmine James. Against Auburn, Meredith Mitchell’s foul trouble and early disqualification turned that into an even thinner bench. It’s not that Georgia was especially sharp at any point in the game, but they really didn’t have much left down the stretch.

Even with the bad loss, Georgia has clinched a first-round bye at the SEC Tournament, will finish no worse than #4, and can still finish with the #2 seed. Here’s what could happen:

  • If Georgia beats Florida: They’ll finish no worse than the #3 seed. They’ll finish #2 if Vanderbilt and Kentucky both win or lose. If Vandy wins at South Carolina and Kentucky loses at Auburn, Georgia will lose the tiebreaker to Vanderbilt and finish #3.
  • If Georgia loses at Florida: Georgia could still finish anywhere from #2 – #4. If Vandy and Kentucky both lose, the Lady Dogs would still end up #2. If they both win, Georgia would fall behind them and drop to #4. If Vandy loses and Kentucky wins, Georgia would also drop to #4. If Vandy wins and Kentucky loses, Georgia would win the tiebreaker with UK for the #3 seed.

The key is the three-team tie. Georgia, Vandy, and Kentucky are all tied at 10-5. Georgia holds the two-team tiebreaker with UK and loses it against Vanderbilt. Kentucky takes the two-team tie over Vandy. The first three-team tiebreaker is “total won-lost record of games played among the tied teams.” Georgia has a 2-1 record against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Kentucky has a 2-2 record. Vandy was 1-2. It comes down to Kentucky and Georgia, and the Lady Dogs swept UK.

What’s most likely to happen? It’s tough to tell. All three teams have to go on the road. Kentucky drilled Auburn by 30 in Lexington, but Auburn is much better at home. Vandy and Florida will each have only a day’s rest since their game was postponed until Friday. Georgia barely survived Florida in Athens. However the seeding ends up, there’s not really a favorable draw for Georgia. All three of their likely quarterfinal opponents – LSU, South Carolina, and Auburn – have defeated Georgia during the regular season.

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