Dawgs at a Loss for Words

ATLANTA - The silence was numbing and the tension felt like a blast of hot air.

Inside the Georgia locker room, Chris Barnes had tears in his eyes. Travis Leslie hung his head. Gerald Robinson buried himself in his Blackberry.

Nobody was talking or moving, making sure to avoid eye contact in hopes reporters would shuffle on by.

"I don't know what to say," Robinson said. "I can't explain this."

These Georgia players had just blown a 14-point lead with 7:33 to play. Watched as junior guard Dustin Ware hit what seemed like a game-winning shot—nullified because Coach Mark Fox had called timeout just before the ball left Ware's hand. Completely faltered in overtime as Jeremy Price fouled out and opportunities went into a dumpster somewhere outside the Georgia Dome.

"It was definitely deflating, but in the end Alabama made the plays and we didn't," Ware said of Alabama 65-59 overtime win in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.

Put simply, this was the worst way to lose a game—when you should've and you didn't. When you were the best team for the majority of the time, but not when it mattered most.

"We were doing things well a certain way for the first half and the start of the second half," Leslie said. "I don't really know what happened after that."

Missed free throws, turnovers and an offense gone stagnant is what happened.

But none of the reasons why the loss happened seemed to matter as much as what the future may—or may not hold.

"We don't know when we'll be playing next," Robinson said. "We don't know if we'll be playing next."

Friday's game was tagged as an NCAA tournament elimination game—a winner take-bracket position, if you will. Both Alabama and Georgia sat in precarious position in relation to the NCAA Tournament.

Despite what the pundits said leading into the game, Fox is still firm: his term deserves a bid to the Big Dance regardless of what happened Friday.

"I think we're a tournament team," he said. "I don't think we had to have this game to be in the NCAA tournament. Our RPI, I think, going into the day was probably -- when we started the tournament it was in the 30s. But a top 40 RPI, a top 40 schedule, a winning record away from home, a winning record in the SEC. And we avoided bad losses. So I think the things that the committee has traditionally asked us to do, I think that we have put together a resume that answers all those questions, and we don't have a lot of negatives on there."

Fox may be right—but Georgia is not making this easy. At this point, the "bubble" talk is almost unbearable.

"To be honest with you, it would be nice to be in the tournament, but that's out of our hands right now," said junior Trey Thompkins, who scored 19 points. "I can't tell you whether we are or not."

Point blank, the loss to Alabama was devastating. But the circumstances that led to defeat were familiar and alarming.

This was another blown lead; the seventh time the Bulldogs have lost after leading late in the second half this season. Any one win in those seven disappointments could have been enough to keep Georgia out of the "bubble" conversation.

Adding to the late-game angst, there have been some narrow escapes, too. Wins over South Carolina and Auburn were made close by second half collapses.

What is holding Georgia back from closing out games it should win? Fatigue? Mental toughness? Strategy?

"I probably should have played more guys," Fox said, taking some of the blame. "But this was a hard-fought game, and I rolled the dice with those kids who have carried us so far this year. But their pressure wore on us. Second game in two days, and you really didn't see the effects of it, I don't think, until the second half."

Fatigue may be the culprit in this case. Either way, now Georgia must wait and see what happens next.

If something happens next.

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