ATHENS, Ga. -- Although his team nearly forced overtime Saturday against Ole Miss but missed a pair of potential game-tying 3-point attempts in the final five seconds, Georgia coach Mark Fox admitted the Bulldogs had no business winning the game.
Despite rallying from a 12-point deficit with 2:23 to play, the Bulldogs fell 66-63 -- an outcome Fox said was just because of the way his team played for the first 37-plus minutes.
“I wasn’t surprised that we had a chance to win it,” Fox said. “We didn’t deserve to have a chance to win it, in my opinion.”
Ole Miss (13-6, 3-2 SEC) had complete control of the game until the closing minutes, when Georgia freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and senior Gerald Robinson led the Bulldogs (10-9, 1-4) on a game-ending 15-6 run.
Caldwell-Pope, who finished with a career-high 25 points before fouling out with 26 seconds to play, hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Robinson scored on two consecutive possessions to trim Ole Miss’ lead to 65-63 with 12 seconds left.
But after Ole Miss' Terrance Henry went 1-for-2 from the line with nine seconds to play, giving the Rebels a three-point lead, the Bulldogs failed to convert on either of their 3-point tries at the other end -- with Nemanja Djurisic’s attempt bouncing off the rim at the final horn.
“We didn’t put ourself in position to win the game,” said Robinson, who finished with 19 points and six asssists. “We fought a little bit at the end, but we can’t just play behind the whole game and expect to pull it out at the end.”
Henry and the Rebels dominated the early going, with Henry drawing two fouls on Caldwell-Pope to send the freshman to the bench. With the Bulldogs’ leading scorer sidelined, the Rebels closed the first half on a 14-3 run to lead 34-23 at intermission.
Henry did much of the damage, scoring 15 of his team-high 24 points in the first half, while also finishing with 10 rebounds.
Caldwell-Pope struck back in the second half, scoring 18 of his 25 points -- including a 4-for-7 effort from 3-point range -- and helping the Bulldogs nearly overturn what once seemed like an insurmountable deficit.
“I was just feeling it. The game against Tennessee, I was kind of feeling a bit frustrated," Caldwell-Pope said of Wednesday's game, in which he scored nine points. "Then today I just wanted to not get it in my head and start rushing my shots and just concentrate on my shooting.”
It was nearly enough to help the Bulldogs win their second consecutive SEC game after beating Tennessee 57-53 in overtime Wednesday. Instead, the Bulldogs are 1-4 in league play, with second-ranked Kentucky preparing to visit Stegeman Coliseum on Tuesday.
“We scratched and clawed at the end, but we have to understand that you have to play every minute in this league,” Fox said. “You just can’t take any minutes off.”