Georgia did not humiliate itself. Even when it seemed out-classedand put away, it made the final moments dramatic.
The Bulldogs, it could be argued, showed that they did indeed belong in the NCAAtournament, where they lost 68-65 to a higher-seeded Washington men’s basketball team.
But Georgia still didn’t advance. And appropriately enough the Bulldogs were once againfelled by a poor second half, the story of its season.
Georgia, the No. 10 seed, led by as many as seven in the first half, and it was tied at thebreak. But the seventh-seeded Huskies took control right away in the second half, thenheld off Georgia’s furious comeback in the final minute.
“I feel like we gave it every shot we had,” star forward Trey Thompkins said after whatmay have been his final college game. “I wouldn’t regret anything that happened thisseason. We’re a tough team, and tough teams go through adversity. We went through alot of adversity and it brought us closer.”
The loss ended what was still a turnaround season for Georgia, which went fromconsecutive losing seasons to a 21-12 record. But it also had to endure a number of late-game collapses and blown leads.
This time it wasn’t a large second-half lead that went away. After leading by seven in thefirst half, and being tied at the break, Georgia quickly found itself down 10 to the Pac-10tournament champion Huskies.
The Huskies’ shooting improved in the second half, helping turn the tide. While theBulldogs got the game played at a slower tempo, which they preferred, they couldn’tcapitalize on the offensive end.
“We didn’t defend well enough in the second half,” head coach Mark Fox said. “We gaveup almost 54 percent in the second half and didn’t rebound it well enough.”
There was also a key sequence that burned up Fox:Leslie appeared to dunk back a miss, but the referee ruled it a goal-tending.. On the otherend, Thomas nailed a fadeway to make it 37-32.
“That was a big momentum play there,” Fox said of the goaltending call. “I didn’t seeany replays there, but that was a tough one.”
Darnell Gant followed up with a 3 to give the Huskies their biggest lead, at 10. It stayedbetween six and 10 until the final minute.
Fox pointed to Washington’s first possession of the second half, when Thomas wasfouled as the shot clock went down. He made all three free throws.
“We got him started,” Fox said. “You cannot do that against a quality player in an NCAAgame.”
The Bulldogs nearly pulled off the improbable comeback, climbing within two in thefinal 10 seconds on a Thompkins 3. Then after the Huskies went 1-for-2 at the line, Lesliepicked up a loose ball on the other end. But he only had time for an off-balance heave,and it was well off.
“It was open. So I went for it,” Leslie said. “Tried to throw up a lucky shot. It just didn’tfall.”
The end of the season turned the attention towards Thompkins and Leslie, a pair ofjuniors who will decide whether to enter the NBA draft. Each declined to tip their handon any decision.
“Going to the NBA would be a life-changing thing. It’s been my dream since I was alittle kid,” Thompkins said. “But right now I’m really not thinking about it. I’ll take thetime off and then talk with my coaches and my family and see what’s the best option.”
“It could go either way,” Leslie said. “We had a great year this year. I know if I stay canhave an even better year next year.”