Alabama closed the gap several times in the second half, but could never get over the hump to take the lead on Georgia. Sometimes it was a missed shot, sometimes a turnover, but the Tide could get no closer than three points and fell behind by as many as 13 in the second half.
Bama's last chance probably came in the last 1:30 when Alabama had the ball and trailed by six points at 79-73. A careless shot was rebounded by the Dogs and went for a layup at the other end.
Alabamafell to 11-8 overall and 4-3 in Southeastern Conference games, while Georgia improved to 11-8 overall and 4-3 in SEC contests.
Alabama returns home Saturday to face what is the best team in the SEC Western Division and, perhaps, the best team in the SEC period. Just two weeks after LSU defeated Alabama 68-57 in Baton Rouge, the Crimson Tide will host the Bengal Tigers at noon Saturday, a game that will be regionally telecast by Jefferson-Pilot.
Ron Steele was top man for Alabama, and probably the top player on the floor. Steele had a career-high 26 points and added six assists. Freshman Richard Hendrix, the SEC Freshman of the Week last week, had 18 points and 8 rebounds. Jean Felix hit a couple of key three-point shots late in the game and finished with 12 points. Jermareo Davidson had a double-double, but it was a subpar game for the big junior, who spent much of the night on the bench with foul problems. Davidson finsihed with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Two years ago in Athens, Alabama defeated Georgia, 45-42. Last year in Tuscaloosa, Bama routed the Bulldogs, 75-47. What is the significance of those scores? At halftime Wednesday, Georgia had scored 46 points–more than in the entire game in 2004 and just a point less than in the entire game last season. The Bulldogs had a 46-38 at intermission.
The problem was not offense. Although Ron Steele with 14 points was the only Tider in double figures, Bama's total of 38 would rank on the high side in games this year. The problem was defense. The perimeter-oriented Bulldogs made three-pointers, which almost every Tide opponent does with success, and surprisingly were able to score points in the paint.
Alabama was in the game in the first half until about the five-minute mark when Jermareo Davidson had two unlikely fouls, both away from the ball, for his second and third fouls of the first half. The Bulldogs used Davidson's absence to extend a four-point lead to as many as 10 points down the stretch to intermission.
Levi Stukes led Georgia with 20 points.
Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said, "I thought we were a step slow in the first half and played perhaps our worst game defensively. It didn't matter if it was zone, man, or trap. They were hitting threes and scoring around the basket. I thought our guys played a lot better in the second half, but we couldn't overcome it."
Gottfried gave credit to Georgia. "They played well," he said. "They made shots. They made free throws. They are not a good three-point shooting team, but they made them. They are not a good foul shooting team, but they made them."
The best thing for Bama as seen by Gottfried was Steele. "Ron Steele did a great job," the coach said. "He really played well. Without him we'd have really been in trouble."
Gottfried said, "You have those nights. We haven't had a lot of them. We've got to find a way to not have one again. Every night we play is going to be a tremendous challenge. I think they understand after tonight that if we don't bring our A game, if we don't play at a high level, we don't have much of a chance."