Painful Loss Puts Dawgs in Limbo

ATLANTA – Mark Fox stood near a corner in the Georgia Dome locker room, on the opposite side of his players.

He had not changed out of his suit jacket. His arms were folded across his chest.

Patiently, the Georgia head coach answered questions about other things, such as his team's postseason future after yet another come-from-ahead loss. This time it was to Alabama in the SEC tournament quarterfinals, 65-59 in overtime.

But it was hard to imagine that Fox wasn't thinking about the final four seconds of regulation, and the timeout he wished he hadn't called.

If the Bulldogs do miss the NCAA tournament, that timeout, which negated a game-winning heave by Dustin Ware, will go down in program lore as the timeout that not only waved off an SEC tournament win, but an NCAA bid.

As it is, the team will have until Sunday evening to think about that, as well as the 14-point lead they held with 7:33 left in regulation.

Georgia junior Travis Leslie, who had a season-high 24 points, summed it up:

"We had plenty of opportunities to win the game and let them get back in it. We could've won it when Dustin made the shot, but coach called the timeout."

Georgia (21-11) probably would have been a cinch for an at-large berth in the tournament, its first in nine years, if it held on to beat Alabama (21-10). Fox used that fact to argue for why his team should still make the 68-team field, which is announced on Sunday night on CBS.

"If I don't call that timeout, and the ball goes in, you don't ask that question," Fox said. "That's how close it is. But this team, I think, has put itself in position to get serious consideration."

In hindsight, Fox admitted he wished he had let the final sequence play out. Alabama's Trevor Releford made a driving layup with 4.2 seconds left, tying it at 53. Georgia then inbounded the ball, Fox not yelling for a stoppage right away because he didn't want the Crimson Tide to set their full-court press.

But he did want a timeout. So he said he hollered for it with about two seconds left. The referees were granting it just as Ware prepared for his shot, a heave that banked in.

"I thought it was a clean shot," Ware said. "But then I kind of saw the referee waving it off, so I knew coach had called a timeout."

"Definitely I thought we won," Leslie said. "But I looked at the ref, he pointed at coach and said it was a timeout. So I couldn't do anything about it."

The officials went to the monitor, and put 0.8 seconds back on the clock. That didn't help the Bulldogs, who only managed a fruitless heave by Trey Thompkins.

Alabama ended up running away with it in the final few minutes of overtime. Georgia, which unlike Alabama had to play Thursday, appeared to fatigue down the stretch, and also played without the fouled-out Jeremy Price.

Still, Georgia had plenty of time to put Alabama away in regulation. The 14-point lead, coming on a dunk by Leslie, was their largest of the game.

But the Bulldogs managed just five points over the rest of regulation. Point guard Gerald Robinson committing turnovers on consecutive possessions, before Releford's game-tying shot.

"I probably should've played more guys," Fox said. "But this was a hard-fought game and I rolled the dice with those kids that have carried us so far this year. But their pressure wore on us. Second game in two days."

It was yet another blown second-half lead for Georgia. It led at halftime in losses to Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Xavier. It also had a 13-point lead against Notre Dame.

Holding in any of those games, or Friday's loss to Alabama, probably would have left Georgia just wondering where it will be seeded in the NCAAs

Instead it will be wondering if it even gets in.

"Hopefully the work we have done over the regular season is good enough," Thompkins said. "We can only wait now and find out what's our fate."


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