And he has no one to blame but himself for this one. That this game was played at all - a road game with nothing to gain at a 200-something RPI school, two days before Christmas - might not be Fox’s fault… I don’t know.
But the ending of the game was his fault, and was as curious a decision as I’ve seen him make in his time at Georgia.
Not that the ending should have mattered. The Bulldogs were up by as many as 13 points in the first half - playing as well as they have played this season. It was an encouraging sign… UGA seemingly getting it together four games in a row.
But that was before being outscored by 14 in a second-half collapse. So much for halftime adjustments. By the end of the night UGA was as “out” of the NCAAs as it has been all year.
This one goes in the “bad loss” column.
The most perplexing, and probably concerning, decision by Fox and UGA was to not foul while down four points with 45 seconds to play in the game. Its hard to rationalize that move. In fact, its just plain horrible basketball.
Game reset: With 45 seconds left in the game UGA had two timeouts, and J.J. Frazier was at the free throw line trying to cut the Oakland lead from six to four, which he eventually did.
The NCAA uses a 30-second shot clock. Georgia, down four, couldn’t just defend and get the ball back and tie or win in a regular shot-clock rotation as there simply wasn’t enough time. They were going to have to get a steal or foul, and they are going to have to do either quick. Georgia needed possessions, or so we thought.
Looking back, UGA had plenty of time to decide what it wanted to do. During free throws time drags; and you can really drag it out if you want to. In real time the Bulldogs would have extra time to decide what they wanted to do. It turns out, that the foul gave UGA another 50 seconds in real time to decide their strategy. But they could have drug it out more, which is usually what you do when you are the team trailing. In dead-ball situations, any coach has the ability to substitute; lest we forget the two timeouts UGA had, but did not use them (at that point or in the rest of the game).
It was an opportunity to manage a not-great situation, and it was and opportunity missed. Fox chose not to call timeout or substitute. He decided not to extend the game in any way. It seemed like he was the one coaching with the lead.
Anyway, Georgia did pick up full-court pressure after Frazier hit the free throws, but it didn’t foul, and for some reason, decided to defend what was pretty much the entire shot clock instead of fouling. The Grizzlies ended up conceding an ally-op dunk to push Oakland’s lead to six with 22 seconds to go.
None of the strategy made sense in any way.
And let’s say the strategy was to foul, but the players didn’t do that - that’s on the players, but its certainly on the bench for not making sure to take time to make certain the kids knew what the strategy was.
Down four with 45 seconds without the ball you pretty much have two options - foul right away, or foul after you don’t get a steal. Playing defense for 23 seconds is insane. Giving up a dunk to end your defensive set in the final minute of the game is horrible want-to on the defensive side of the ball.
“You know the foul is coming, and it is coming soon,” screamed some idiot moonlighting as an analyst during the broadcast.
It was not to be; the screaming idiot was wrong. Now the steam that was picked up after playing pretty well in three wins in a row, and the false sense of progress that the win over one of the most restless Georgia Tech teams I can remember, is gone.
Auburn looms, but before entering SEC play one has to look back at the pre-conference slate to see what UGA needs to do moving forward. Right now, UGA’s best win is a home win over UNC-Asheville (No. 72). The Bulldogs are 8-4 with at least 20 games more left to play (Texas, 18 SEC games and 1 SEC Tournament game). On Tuesday, UGA’s RPI was 56.
College basketball nerd website kenpom.com shows UGA going 9-11 in SEC play, which obviously would not get the Dawgs were they need to go. So UGA is going to have to figure out how to pick up its play.
The game at Auburn (10-2), where the Bulldogs will likely be underdogs, is a big one. The Tigers have taken out Georgia State (No. 63), Texas Tech (No. 91), Oklahoma (No. 171) and UConn (No. 166), but lost to Purdue (No. 46) and (No. 207). So perhaps Auburn’s record is a little inflated by a not-so-challenging schedule.
Then again, Auburn has been a death trap for Fox over the years. His teams are 1-4 there. If the same mistakes are repeated from the Oakland game he will be 1-5. It felt like, after the three previous games, that UGA was turning a corner.
Now this team is going to have to figure out how to position itself for a winter run. Their fall made that run much more difficult.