January 12, 2013

Second-half meltdown

If you've watched Georgia's basketball team for any length of time, it's become quite obvious that after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Bulldogs don't exactly have anyone else they can depend to consistently put points on the board.

So, if Caldwell-Pope struggles, that's typically a bad recipe for success. Take Saturday's 72-61 loss to Mississippi State, for example.

In the first half, Caldwell-Pope was at his best, converting 5-of-8 attempts, including four from 3-point range for a team-high 14 points at intermission.

The second half was a different story.

Caldwell-Pope went 0-for-7 and with nobody to else to step forward, Mississippi State was able to ride a 12-point effort in final 20 minutes by junior guard Jalen Steele to finish off the easy win.

"We couldn't get Kentavious a good look at the basket and their shooter got plenty and that was the difference in the game," head coach Mark Fox said. "We've got to get somebody else to score when they take Kentavious away and we're having trouble doing that right now."

The loss drops Georgia to 6-9 overall and 0-2 in SEC heading into next Wednesday's game at Missouri.

With the Tigers playing some of the best ball in the conference, that doesn't bode well for the Bulldogs who were actually in Saturday's contest against MSU until three straight three-pointers by Steele ignited a 12-1 run after Georgia had tied the game at 50 with 9:06 to play.

"I know we've got some freshmen and they make some errors but we had a returning player (Caldwell-Pope) leave the best shooter on their team and just walk away from it, hoping someone would cover back and that was just a very poor play," Fox said. "You can't let a guy like (Steele) open because he's going to make you pay."

Once again, the Bulldogs hurt themselves with an atrocious effort from the free throw line.

Georgia was a mere 19 of 32 against Mississippi State (7-7, 2-0), which was out-rebounded by Georgia 44-37, including 17 to 8 on the offensive side.

The Bulldogs came into play ranked 10th in free throw shooting in the SEC at .669 percent.

"I don't accept that, no. I don't accept that. I think that's a product of really personal performance and concentration," Fox said. "The last time we shot free throws this poorly I think we shot 7,000 in practice and we're well over the 11,000 mark. Our percentages are good, but you've got to be able to transfer what you do into a game. Are we a bad free throw shooting team? I refuse to believe that, but we've got to become a better concentrating team at the line."

Caldwell-Pope finished with 16 points for the Bulldogs, followed by Charles Mann with 14.

Steele topped MSU with 21 points, followed by Craig Sword with 16.

Mississippi State led 36-35 at the half.

"We did a poor job in the first half. They had 35 points and our goal is to hold people to 25 at half," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "I think what happened is we had so much success with the 1-3-1 zone against South Carolina, I though our guys thought we could come in here and it would just work like magic. They didn't realize, it's not what you're doing, it's how hard you're playing.

"In the second half we went man and I think our guys did a good job of buying in and keeping up with their assignments defensively."

That's something Fox said Georgia obviously did not do.

"Our defense failed us," Fox said. "It's a disappointing loss."