For the second year in a row, Georgia let a game slip away against Texas A&M late.
This time, holding a four-point lead with 2:28 left to play, the Bulldogs allowed the Aggies to go on a 5-0 run to close the game and escape Stegeman Coliseum with a 61-60 victory.
The Aggies (19-11, 8-9 SEC) were led by guard T.J. Starks, who finished with 15 points and hit the game-winning shot on a floater with 58 seconds left to play.
Following a foul called on Georgia center Derek Ogbeide, Starks missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12.3 seconds left to play. But with three timeouts, Georgia (16-13, 7-10) elected to play on. Teshaun Hightower passed the ball to Juwan Parker, who was then trapped on the right wing. He put up a contested shot, which fell short as time expired.
Texas A&M players rushed to mid-court to celebrate the win.
Last year, Georgia held a larger lead late against Texas A&M, only to lose 63-62.
Should Fox have called a timeout with 12.3 seconds left?
As mentioned, Georgia had three timeouts in the final 12.3 seconds of the game. Head coach Mark Fox elected not to call one of them.
Was this the right decision?
Some may argue Fox most certainly should have called one in that situation.
Afterward, Fox explained he felt his team could play off of a missed free throw and not allow Texas A&M to set up its defense.
"We felt we could play from a miss without them setting their defense," Fox said.
Here is where it gets tricky. With about five seconds to go, Parker had the ball and was trapped on the right wing. Since the clock is running, Fox himself can't call a timeout. That was part of a rule change before the 2015-16 season, which was amended to allow coaches to call timeouts in live ball situations after made baskets the following preseason.
So in this situation, a Georgia player has to signal for a timeout. That didn't happen and Parker had to put up a contested shot that never had a chance of going in.
There was nothing wrong about the decision to play it out following Starks' missed free throw. In addition, the Bulldogs have not exactly been a great team inbounding the basketball this season. With that in mind, it is understandable as to why Fox would want his team to play it out from the get go.
As for calling a timeout when Parker got the ball, that's where any second-guessing could begin. And even then, it is understandable why a player wouldn't make that decision in the heat of the moment.
Fox, however, did say that with the benefit of hindsight, maybe he should have called a timeout.
Hightower has best game of season, but ends with costly turnover
After the game, Fox told players they didn't have to handle any media obligations. Only Fox spoke to reporters. Fox apologized for this but said his players were upset and emotional after the loss. Therefore, he decided to let them go home.
One of those players devastated by the end of the game was Hightower. With Georgia leading 60-59 with just over a minute to play, Hightower received the ball on an inbounds play and was promptly defended. Hightower then tried to pass the ball to Maten, only for the ball to skid past and out of bounds.
That turnover led to Starks' shot that ended up being the game-winner.
While Fox said Hightower was devastated about the turnover, he still put in his best game of the season. Not known as an offensive threat, Hightower scored 11 points and dished four assists. He also came down with five rebounds. Hightower entered the game as a 21.4 percent 3-point shooter but made two of his four attempts from behind the arc.
Hightower has already shown the ability of being a sound defender for the Bulldogs. He took a step forward with his offensive development Wednesday night.
"He's really torn up about the turnover," Fox said. "It's just a part of playing. Sometimes you're going to make some errors. Obviously it came at a critical time. But he's a very gifted young player who continues to get better. He took a real step forward (Wednesday night)."
The bigger picture
Georgia needed a sweep over Texas A&M and Tennessee to put itself back in the NCAA Tournament picture. The loss to the Aggies all but ensures that the Bulldogs will need to not only make a deep run, but probably win the SEC Tournament to get into the big dance.
The Bulldogs will finish under .500 in league play for the first time since the 2011-12 season. With all of the speculation surrounding Fox's job security, this will not do him any favors in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. As it stands, Georgia is positioned for the No. 11 seed in next week's SEC Tournament in St. Louis.
Georgia can only move up one spot to No. 10 but needs to two things to happen: 1) It must beat the Volunteers Saturday. 2) South Carolina must lose to Auburn. If only one happens, Georgia will be playing on the not-so-glamorous opening day of the tournament.
Holding their own
Texas A&M features two big men in Robert Williams (6-foot-10, 240 pounds) and Tyler Davis (6-10, 264 pounds) who are generally tough matchups. And early on, they made their presence felt on missed shots.
At halftime, the Aggies held a 26-19 rebounding advantage.
In the second half, that changed, with Georgia doing a much better job of getting after loose balls and boxing out the Texas A&M bigs. In the end, the Aggies only out-rebounded the Bulldogs by a 47-44 margin.
Starks sparks Aggies
In addition to securing the game-winner, Starks proved to be a big difference maker at the end of the first half too.
With Texas A&M holding a 28-25 lead, Starks scored seven points and dished an assist to Davis to lead his team on a 9-3 run to close the first half. In this span, Starks made a layup, a jumper and a 3-pointer. Given the outcome, this sequence certainly played a big role in the outcome of this game.