Defensive Lapses Hurt Dawgs

ATHENS – Home cooking, it turns out, was no remedy for what has ailed Georgia.

The Bulldogs fell to Arkansas 72-68 – their fourth loss by four points or fewer in their last six games – despite dominating much of the first half.

Trey Thompkins paced Georgia with 21 points, including 12 points in the game's final eight minutes, but it wasn't enough to overcome a dismal second half in which turnovers and defensive lapses dogged the Bulldogs and Courtney Fortson paced Arkansas, scoring 19 of his game-high 27.

"This team has not made progress and our defense is failing us," head coach Mark Fox said of the Bulldogs' inept effort at stopping the Razorbacks down the stretch. "It failed us time and time again in the second half. That was too much pressure on your offense, especially for this team."

After Arkansas scored the game's first five points, Georgia roared into action with a dominant 18-2 run in which reserve forward Jeremy Price scored seven points. The Bulldogs cruised into the half boasting a 37-25 lead with Price and point guard Dustin Ware accounting for the bulk of the scoring.

The second half, however, was a different story.

Ware's bucket at the 15:28 mark gave the Bulldogs a 10-point lead, but it would be their last for nearly five-and-a-half minutes. Meanwhile, Fortson helped Arkansas engineer a 13-0 run to regain the lead at 48-45.

The drought ended when Ricky McPhee went to the line and hit both ends of a one-and-one, and Arkansas' next possession, Travis Leslie forced a turnover, then took the ball down the court and drained a 3 to regain the lead. It was the second of the game for the Georgia sophomore, matching his career total from his first two seasons. Leslie finished with 14 points – one of four Bulldogs in double figures.

Leslie's steal marked one of the few defensive highlights in the second half for Geogia. Arkansas connected on 64 percent of its shots from the field, while the Bulldogs floundered on the boards to further damage a comeback bid. After holding a 19-12 edge I rebounds in the first half, Georgia was out-muscled on the boards by a 19-9 margin in the second half.

"Once you stop guarding, you stop rebounding," Thompkins said. "It's a chain reaction, and that's an issue we have to take care of."

Thompkins kept the momentum going offensively, but he found little help. Price's first-half success evaporated – he finished with 11, none in the second half – while Georgia failed to convert offensively on several key possessions down the stretch.

Meanwhile, Fortson was dominant. He scored nine points in the final three minutes and was essentially Arkansas' only offensive weapon, despite playing with four fouls.

"We talked about it at halftime, that he did the same thing at Ole Miss and we told our team, in the second half he's going to come charging," Fox said. "You have to give him credit – he's a terrific player, and he had a stronger will to get it done than we had to get it stopped."

Georgia had a chance to tie the game with 27 seconds left, but Ware turned the ball over and Fortson drained two free throws at the other end to push the lead to four.

The Bulldogs' last gasp came with 6.7 seconds remaining, but McPhee's off-balance 3-pointer rimmed out, sending the Bulldogs to their third straight loss.

"Dustin's was a screen roll to Trey, and he got it maybe a little too deep," Fox said. "Ricky was open, but he probably didn't realize he had time for another dribble. It was the shot we wanted but it didn't go down."

After the game, Fox toed the line between dejected and angered. The players were as somber as a funeral procession. It was a far cry from the Bulldogs' elation following their last home game – a dominant win over Tennessee that Fox hoped would signal a turning point for the program, which is now 9-11 overall and just 1-6 in SEC play.

Instead, the same woes that had plagued the team on the road, where Georgia is 0-7 on the season.

Another first-half lead, another second-half disappointment. And while early losses showed signs of progress, it's the consistency of the mistakes that has Fox flustered.

"Our inability to get stops is crushing this team," he said. "It has plagued us time and time again. Our inability to defend is what is really hurting this team."

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