Georgia, which has been figuring out ways to win since SEC play began in January, figured out another late Friday and into Saturday. In a game wrecked by overzealous officials, the Bulldogs made one basket over the final 6:49 — that coming on Charles Mann’s third-chance shot from the lane with 17 seconds remaining — but that one was the game-winner.
In a game that saw 51 fouls called and 73 free throws taken and both coaches and many players fly into rages, that one Mann basket carried the long night. The Bulldogs fell into foul trouble in the first half. In the second, Ole Miss fouled seven times — putting Georgia in the bonus — in the first 4:23 of the second half.
Andy Kennedy, the Rebels’ coach, nearly got a technical one possession before Mark Fox, who coaches Georgia, succeeded in getting T’d up. And still somehow Mann cut through the furor to give Georgia the hoop it needed if it is to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs will face Kentucky in Saturday’s second semifinal, and Georgia’s first shot against the Big Blue was a damp squib. The Bulldogs were beaten by 25 points in Rupp Arena, but that was on a day when shooting guard Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker, his backup, didn’t play due to injury.
Georgia is healthy now. If Bulldogs play closer to capacity — Fox himself admitted his men seemed out of sorts from the first against Ole Miss — they’ll have a real chance against the Wildcats, who have had issues themselves. In what would wind up as a bounceback game, Kentucky fell behind LSU by nine points Friday night, then took a 16-point lead, then saw it pared to three, then won by 18.
Kentucky would like to win this tournament to prove it’s still Kentucky. Georgia needs to win this event to qualify for the Big Dance. The Wildcats have much the better players, but the tighter mesh and the greater motivation will wear red and black.
From myajc.com, our premium site: For Georgia, a game most foul has a sweet ending.