Cameron Forte more than made up for his mediocre performance during regulation by rescuing his team with late-game heroics during a 66-65 victory over Alabama. The win likely saved Georgia’s season - at least it feels like that right now.
Forte, who couldn’t cash in layups during a three-on-one or a two-on-one fast break in regulation, knocked in a twisting left-handed baseline jumper with only 6.4 seconds to play in overtime to lift Georgia to only its 13th win in Tuscaloosa in program history.
To say Georgia needed this one is an understatement.
That Forte, who ended the night with eight points and ten boards, was in the game was one thing. After all Georgia’s go-to players in that sort of situation, Marcus Thornton (ten points and six rebounds) and Charles Mann (13 points, four boards and five turnovers), had fouled out of the game.
That the game-winning situation came down to Forte’s left hand was still unlikely even with him in on the floor in the closing moments. J.J. Frazier (eight points and three assists) was trying to work two-man game with Nemanja Djurisic (14 points and seven rebounds) on the left side of the floor to presumably get Kenny Gaines (nine points and four boards) the ball coming off of cross and down screens.
Mark Fox, during the entire possession, stood with his arms crossed and one foot in the coaching box and one out. He had been given a technical earlier in the game and Bama used that to go from being down three to up two in about a minute. That would have been the story of this game had Georgia lost, but Fox was right about his player being hit in the face. How an official could miss that call is beyond me. I can’t say if Fox deserved a technical for his actions (sure did seem to come pretty quick), but he was right and the official was wrong - end of story.
At that point, with about 20 second left, big man Yante Maten and Forte were spectators on the other side of the floor. Forte, with his hands on his hips for a time, seemed ready to crash the boards. That appeared to be his role.
In basketball, however, defenses have a way of shutting things down. Bama wasn’t going to give Gaines a look… that was not happening. Djurisic, who (and this is putting it nicely) can be hot and cold, was used as a screener… he was crashing the boards as well - at least that was the plan.
Frazier thought better of everything and called off trying to get the ball to Gaines. He called for Maten to come up and pick and roll with him. Djurisic and Gaines, now on the left side of the floor, had become the spectators. Only Forte remained on the right side of the floor.
A left-handed player on the right side of the court - just the way you draw it up. It was totally different than the work of offensive beauty Frazier and Thornton had cashed in on with less than a minute to play in regulation. That sort of basketball is something to watch.
Frazier was doubled by Bama, and Maten was rolling to the basket. But Frazier, who Fox described as “5-2” a few weeks back, couldn’t get the ball to Maten because of the massive double team Bama threw on him.
Only ten seconds remained.
Frazier picked up his dribble and passed it to Forte. Frazier motioned for Forte to give him the ball back so that he could make something happen.
Slipping and sliding on the baseline Forte jackknifed his way towards the rim before pulling up for a twisty shot.
Fox was still standing with his arms crossed. Georgia’s bench was totally sitting… not even standing with optimism as the ball left Forte’s hand. That’s how difficult Forte’s shot was… that and the Bama defender was all over Forte.
The ball hit the net and then the hardwood. Georgia was up and it would not be down again until the plane lands later tonight in Athens.
The late Larry Munson would have had a press row hobnail boot moment. It was a heck of a way to end a two-game funk.
Sometimes you can do everything right and still get it wrong. That’s what happened to Alabama on that possession. The better team won the game - don’t confuse yourself - but on that particular possession Forte made chicken salad out of chicken poop.
It wasn’t the shot that anyone wanted - then again no one wants to even be in that situation to begin with. Forte did what had to be done to win the game and therefore correct the trajectory of this program. Someone, and coaches don’t play, had to yank this team out of this villainous spell they were under.
It wasn’t really the “right” shot, but you can’t have perfect be the enemy of good in these situations. You just have to get the damned ball up on the glass and see what happens.
It was a game Georgia should have won - and not necessarily in overtime. Again Voltaire (look it up).
Now 17-9 on the season, Georgia erased some of the mangled mess that was the last seven days of results with this 66-65 win over Alabama. We can talk about what could have or should have been, or we can focus on the here and now.
The Bulldogs enter this Wednesday’s game at Ole Miss with the ability to pretty well cement their invitation to the NCAAs with a win. A loss, which would hurt some, would not be viewed overwhelmingly negative because it is a road contest against a good team.