Dawgs Hope to Finish vs. Vandy

ATHENS – The scene had unfolded too many times for Georgia.

Earlier in the year, a close loss was a bit of a momentum builder, a sign of progress. After Georgia's fifth loss by eight points or fewer in SEC play, however, it was simply a sign of frustration, a means of underscoring that the team hadn't come far enough.

Georgia led by 12 at halftime against Arkansas on Wednesday, but still dropped to 1-6 in conference play thanks to a second-half collapse in which the Bulldogs had no answer for the Razorbacks' offensive onslaught.

"In the last game, our competitive spirit wasn't enough," center Albert Jackson said. "We didn't show that aggression as a team. We should have known they were going to fight back, and they did. Basketball is a game of, you get hit and you come back and hit them. We basically just took a beating."

That was the feeling after the game, too. The Bulldogs looked beaten, battered, shell-shocked.

The halftime lead at Kentucky was a spark to the program, despite Georgia's eventual loss.

The close loss to Mississippi a few days later was further proof that Georgia could play with anyone.

A few road losses – including an ugly second-half collapse against Mississippi State – could be chalked up to immaturity. Georgia still needed to learn how to win away from home.

But Wednesday's loss to Arkansas – that was different.

Expectations were higher, and the loss was much harder to stomach.

"Coach (Mark) Fox is trying to do a good job of keeping us from getting accustomed to losing," Jackson said. "We're not at that point, but we definitely need to turn it around before we get there. Because when you do, your season goes down the drain."

The Bulldogs are hoping to rebound tonight when they host East-leading Vanderbilt (17-4, 6-1 SEC) at Stegeman Coliseum in a game that will test Georgia's resolve and, more importantly, test their depth.

Head coach Mark Fox was left to lament the defensive breakdown against Arkansas, and he put the blame partially on the team's intensity, but admits there is a real problem with finding enough players capable of shutting down an offense late in games.

"Some things that we struggle with defensively, we cannot correct," Fox said. "There are just some matchups we're going to have to learn how to compensate for in other ways. We aren't the quickest or most athletic in certain areas."

The starting unit has managed to muster some legitimate offensive success, which has been a surprise even by Fox's standards. But on defense, they've managed to stop the bleeding as much as possible, but good teams manage to wear them down, and the bench hasn't offered much help.

Fox compared Georgia's situation to a football defense late in a game against a run-heavy team.

"You may not see the results of all those runs until the fourth quarter when the defense is worn down," Fox said. "Our lack of depth has kind of put us in a similar situation that, the other night, we defended pretty well for a half and it started to deteriorate."

The challenge won't be any easier tonight. Vanderbilt is third in the SEC, averaging nearly 79 points per game offensively. The two teams ahead of the Commodores in the rankings are Kentucky and Ole Miss – and both of those teams started slow, but eventually wore down the Bulldogs' resolve.

The question now is, has Georgia toughened its game after so many heart-breaking losses, or will all the late-game failures eventually push the Bulldogs' over the edge?

"They've been very resilient, but they were so hungry for a new start that it's been one of those things that has kept them coming back," Fox said. "But they've got to continue building this program, and every day and every game you've got to show up and make it happen."


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