If it wasn’t basketball, it would be a country song.
Georgia had a comeback effort filled with resilience and patience paid back with heartbreak when Alabama’s Trevor Releford nailed a half court buzzer beater to beat visiting Georgia 61 – 58 in Coleman Coliseum. Releford led all scorers with 19. Kenneth Caldwell – Pope scored 14 for Georgia, including a 25 foot 3 pointer to tie the game with 48 seconds remaining.
Georgia overcame a disastrous first half scoring drought and resulting deficit of 17 to tie the game at 58 on Caldwell-Pope’s jumper. Charles Mann then stole the ball back for Georgia with 17 seconds on the clock. With no time outs remaining, Georgia had no choice but to play on and the Alabama defense freed the ball during a Mann drive. The ensuing scramble led to Releford’s half court shot and the Alabama win.
For Georgia, Nemi Djurisic scored 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting (2 – 2 on three point attempts) and 4 of 4 on free throws. Djurisic also claimed 11 rebounds including 6 offensive rebounds, several during the last minutes of the failed comeback. Brandon Morris scored 11.
“It was a hard-fought game, but we didn’t start to fight until we had gotten punched in the teeth about five times,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We played a Thursday night game, traveled to get here yesterday and didn’t handle the quick turnaround very well.”
Alabama made its first five shots in the game and needed less than four minutes to build a double-digit lead. Moussa Gueye’s layup at the 16:16 mark put the Crimson Tide ahead 13-3.
Georgia finally reached double figures on a 3-pointer by Djurisic with 11:56 left in the first half. The Bulldogs pulled within 17-13 on a layup by Caldwell-Pope at the 10:49 mark.
After that basket, however, Georgia went the next 8:12 before scoring again. In the meantime, Alabama had built its advantage to its largest at 30-13.
“I played 12 guys in the first four minutes of this game, trying to find the right combination of guys that were ready to fight,” Fox said. “I thought in the second half, we played much better, rebounded the ball better and gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”
Still down by 14 points at halftime, Georgia gradually crept back into contention. A layup by Djurisic got the Bulldogs within 38-31 with 12:46 left. Though Alabama responded with six quick points, Georgia kept its comeback in motion.
Caldwell-Pope assisted John Cannon on a layup at the 8:00 mark that trimmed the margin back to seven at 46-39. A 3-point play by Caldwell-Pope with 3:47 left pulled the Bulldogs within four at 53-49. The Bulldogs finally pulled to within single digits of the Tide with less than a minute to play.
Georgia (15-16, 9-9 in the Southeastern Conference) shot 26% from the floor in the first half but returned in the second half to shoot at a 58% percentclip. Alabama (20-11, 12 – 6 in the SEC) shot 41% from the field for the game. Alabama shot 82% from the free throw stripe and Georgia shot 64%. Georgia compensated with a 6 rebound advantage. Ironically, Trevor Releford’s final and game winning shot gave Alabama a 1 shot edge in shots from the field and was the final note of another heart breaking song for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Alabama is the 4th seed in the SEC Tournament. Georgia is the 8th seed in the SEC Tourney and will play LSU Thursday afternoon at 1:00. A first round win will allow the Bulldogs to measure the seasons progress against top seeded Florida.