Georgia coach Mark Fox wanted to make one thing clear prior to workouts Friday at the Bulldogs Basketball Facility - he wasn't blaming guard Dustin Ware for Thursday's 97-94 overtime loss to Vanderbilt.
Still, the coach didn't point fingers back at those who were.
Leading 77-75 with 24 seconds left, Ware missed a pair of free throws that would have given Georgia its first road victory. Instead, the game went into overtime tied at 77-77 and the Bulldogs weren't able to overcome the host Commodores in the extra five-minute frame.
It marked the second game this year where a pair of late missed free throws by Ware cost the Bulldogs a victory (a 78-77 loss at South Carolina was the other). So although the sophomore scored 16 points, dished out eight assists all without a single turnover, it was Ware failure at the line that left had many in the Bulldog Nation shaking their collective head.
Fox, however, wasn't one of them, although he did understand the frustration the missed free throws caused.
"That didn't lose the game for us. There's a lot of plays in the first 40 minutes if you make one of them you have a different outcome and cause that happened late it gets magnified a little bit which is a little bit unfair, but realistic," Fox said. "(Ware) has to understand that he played a good game - eight assists, zero turnovers - and directed the team with the bench setup they have at Vandy. Yes, he's extremely disappointed, but he's received a lot of encouragement from his teammates and me because he played well and will play well again."
Still, the two-point loss didn't sit well with the Bulldogs (12-14, 4-9) who now must find a way to put the disappointing defeat out of their mind in time for Saturday's 4 p.m. game against arch-rival Florida (20-8, 9-4).
"Our kids were certainly very disappointed after the game because they played very hard, gave great effort but came up just a little short. That's certainly disappointing, but that's part of competition and we have to use the pain of a tough loss as part of our investment," Fox said. "But the sun came up today, we have to go back to work, regroup and get ready to play a very good Florida team."
While some may see the short turnaround detriment for Georgia, Fox doesn't necessarily see that as being the case.
In fact, it may help the Bulldogs forget the tough defeat.
"It's a quick turnaround, and that might be good for us because we'll be forced to look forward and not backwards," Fox said. "We'll do our best to get our legs back underneath us, and get mentally ready to play Saturday afternoon."
Statistically, Fox said he would settle for an effort similar to the one he received against Vanderbilt, albeit with one particular exception.
The Commodores went to the free throw line 39 times, converted 35 and still only won by two.
"If you look at statistically, we made more field goals than they did and we shot a better percentage from the field than they did. We shot more 3s than they did; we shot a better percentage from three. We blocked more shots than them; we outrebounded them and had only two more turnovers and 11 for the game," Fox said. "We did a lot of things well but we gave up 35 points the foul line and that's too many."
Still, Fox said that's all part of the maturing process for his young Bulldog squad, which hosts Kentucky next Wednesday before closing out the regular season as week from Saturday at LSU.
"We're maturing as competitors and I think they have to see the big picture which I think we do," Fox said. "But we need to communicate with them and they have to voice their frustrations from a tough loss. We'll voice some of that (Friday) and get a good sweat, then start preparing mentally how we need to play on Saturday."
Florida at Georgia
WHERE: Stegeman Coliseum
WHEN: Saturday, 4 p.m.
RECORDS: Georgia 12-14, 4-9; Florida 20-8, 9-4
TV: SEC Network/ESPN360
RADIO: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
NEXT GAME: Kentucky, Wednesday, 8 p.m.
NOTES: This will be the fourth consecutive Saturday the Bulldogs have enjoyed a home-court advantage. In each of the previous games, they've had to overcome second-half deficits to win, the largest of which (13 points) came last Saturday in a win over Alabama.
The Alabama win matched Georgia's overall victory total from last season and surpassed its SEC win total. The biggest difference in this comparison is the difficulty in the respective schedules. The 2009 slate was rated the 74th most difficult among 347 Division I schools. The current schedule is rated the 10th toughest in the country, the highest rating for a Georgia schedule since the 2001 & 2003 slates that were listed No. 1 nationally.
This game will complete the regular-season series between these two teams. Their first meeting took place exactly one month ago, Florida taking an 87-71 decision in Gainesville. Georgia won last year's matchup here in Athens by an 88-86 margin.
A couple of notes about the Georgia schedule this season.
The aggregate W/L record of the 14 teams that have beaten the Bulldogs this season is 266-119 (.691). Nine of those teams have already won 20 games. Just one of those teams (Auburn) currently has a sub-.500 overall record.
Six of Georgia's losses weren't decided until the game's final possession. Conversely, two of Georgia's 12 wins came down to the last pos¬session of the game.
Georgia has wins over three teams whose current RPI ratings are in the Top 30. The Bulldogs have three more wins over Top 100 RPI teams.
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