ATHENS – Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was just one of those terrible nights when nothing went in. Or maybe it was just not having one of its top players.
In any case the result was an abysmal one for the Georgia men's basketball team. The Bulldogs were awful shooting the ball, and paid for it with a disappointing home loss to Vanderbilt, 59-54.
It was a setback for Georgia’s season, and it wasted what was, considering everything, a pretty decent crowd at Stegeman Coliseum. Nearly 2,000 students got in free, and saw their team miss 17 straight 3-pointers, shoot just 27 percent overall, and lose to a team with just seven scholarship players.
“I felt like we let the crowd down,” junior forward Marcus Thornton said. “We had a lot of people come out, especially a lot of students, and that’s what we hoped for, and we just didn’t come to play. We didn’t give them the effort they deserved.”
Georgia (10-9 overall) dropped to 4-3 in the SEC. The loss to Vanderbilt (11-8, 3-4) was one the Bulldogs could ill afford, and might undo a lot of the momentum the team had in its surprising start in SEC play.
"We certainly reverted," Fox said, referring to his team's poor offensive play.
Vanderbilt only has seven scholarship players. But head coach Kevin Stallings has had his way lately with the Bulldogs, now having beaten them eight straight times.
“Let’s give Vanderbilt credit," Fox said. "They outplayed us, and our players got what we deserved. We got whooped. Not whooped, we got beat. But we didn’t play well. Can’t shoot the ball like that. Can’t rebound like that. Can’t defend like that, and win the game.”
He could have just stopped at “can’t shoot the ball like that.” Everything else could have been overcome with just a few more made shots.
Shooting guard Kenny Gaines, Georgia's second-leading scorer, missed a second straight game with a thigh injury. Georgia did get back Juwan Parker, the backup shooting guard, but that didn’t end up helping. It might have actually hurt.
Parker had a disastrous night, going 0-for-10 from the field, including five missed 3-pointers.
“I felt good (in warm-ups),” Parker said. “Some nights you just have a bad night, and this just went from bad to worse.”
Fox was asked afterwards if he would help Parker put the poor performance aside.
"He shouldn't put this game aside," Fox said. "He better take his butt right into the gym, which he probably will tonight, right into the gym and start shooting the ball in."
Parker said he would be doing just that.
"I've gotta hit something before I leave the gym," Parker said, smiling ruefully.
While shooting was the overhanging factor, plenty else went wrong for Georgia. It only had three assists, a season-low, and for the first time in an SEC game committed more fouls than its opponent.
“We didn’t have enough spirit to begin with,” Thornton said. “I think you’ve gotta be assertive. I think we just kind of existed on offense. We didn’t establish ourselves in any way, shape or form, in any facet of the game. So we didn’t get anything done today.”
Thornton was asked why they lacked spirit.
“Not sure. I’m not exactly sure what was behind it. I don’t know if it was the snow, the weather change. I don’t know what it was, we just didn’t have it today, spirit-wise,” Thornton said. “And that’s disappointing because you can always control that.”
Gaines took a knee to the high last week, late in a blowout win over South Carolina. It didn’t appear serious at the time, but has ended up causing one of Georgia’s best players to miss at least two games.
“We’re missing him a ton,” Thornton said.
“He’s not progressed to the level to clear him,” Fox said. “We can’t put the kid at risk. Our trainers have done a great job. He’s just not cleared yet.”
The game was played on a day that classes at UGA were canceled because of the snowstorm and ensuing travel gridlock. Students were let in for free, and 1,914 came, including star football player Todd Gurley, along with former Georgia football star David Pollack.
They saw Fox's team have perhaps its worst loss of the season. Afterwards, he was obviously upset with his team's performance, not holding much back, and tapping on the press room table for emphasis.
“I’m perturbed because we didn’t play well. And Vanderbilt taught us a lesson out there,” Fox said. “I’m perturbed by how we played. We’ve got to give Vandy credit for playing well, shooting the ball well. But I’m not happy with our team approached this game.”