February 3, 2010

Defense lets down Dogs against Hawgs

There was no sugarcoating Georgia's 72-68 loss to Arkansas Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum.

After playing one of their better first halves of the year, the Bulldogs' suffered a second-half meltdown that left head coach Mark Fox shaking his head after his team succumbed to the visiting Razorbacks 72-68.

"It's a disappointing loss. I'm very disappointed in our defensive performance and this team's not making progress, our defense is failing us," Fox said. "It failed us time and time against the second half. It was pretty good in the first half. In the second half, it failed us and that puts too much pressure on your offense, especially if it's this team."

It was certainly frustrating to watch.

Although Arkansas (11-11, 4-3) never led in the second half by more than the final four-point margin, Georgia's inability to make crucial stops curtailed whatever chances the Bulldogs (9-11, 1-6) might have had of posting their second conference victory.

Even when the Bulldog had opportunities to tie the score, sophomore Dustin Ware turned the ball over with just over 21 seconds left before Ricky McPhee appeared to force would have been a game-tying 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds to go.

"Dustin's was a screen-roll to him and Trey (Thompkins). I thought he got maybe a little too deep. He had some open space because Trey was drawing so much attention," Fox said. "I thought Ricky was open, he probably didn't realize he probably had time for a dribble there but it was the shot we were looking for. It didn't go down, but our inability to get stops is what's crushing this team. It has plagued us time and time again, our inability to defend is what is really hurting this team."

Thompkins couldn't agree more.

"That's been a liability to our team on the defensive end. We choose what nights we want to play defense," Thompkins said. "I know myself personally, I've made the mistake of not playing hard on the defensive end all the time and we have to do better on defense if we want to win these games."

The two halves could not have turned out more different for the Bulldogs.

Georgia played near flawless ball the first half, racing out to 37-22 lead thanks largely to an early 15-0 run.

But whatever success the Bulldogs enjoyed soon disappeared in the second. Besides committing 11 second-half turnovers, Georgia was outrebounded 19-9.

It didn't help matters for the Bulldogs that Arkansas guard Courtney Fortson exploded for 19 of his team-high 27 points in the final 20 minutes as the Bulldogs were unable to find an answer.

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

Thompkins finished with 21 points leading the Bulldogs, followed by Travis Leslie with 14 with Ware and Jeremy Price chipping in with 11 points apiece. Mike Washington chipped in with 15 for Arkansas, followed by Marshawn Powell with 11.

"We're getting a little bit fatigued; it's a long grinding season. Our bench is no better defensively than our first group; if they were better or even they would play more," Fox said. "We just in the second half, today especially, we were awful. It didn't matter if we were in a zone, were in man, and we got pounded on the glass in the second half."

Georgia returns to action Saturday night when the Bulldogs entertain Vanderbilt at 8 p.m.

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