After taking third-ranked Kentucky to the wire last Saturday in Lexington, Georgia coach Mark Fox was afraid his team might be in store for some emotional fatigue for Wednesday's home conference opener against Ole Miss.
Turns out he was right.
The Bulldogs started the game strong, but fizzled late in the second half enabling the No. 21-ranked Rebels to escape with an 80-76 victory before a Stegeman Coliseum crown of 6,743.
"That was a hard-fought game, but I think we had an emotional hangover from the Kentucky game. I really felt that we were emotionally fatigued for the early part of the ball game," Fox said. "We got some energy back and made it a battle, but you've got to give Ole Miss credit. We had a terrible time guarding them and our matchups were awful. We had a very difficult time guarding them. We eventually started playing harder and got some stops but then we couldn't finish the game."
The Bulldogs (8-7, 0-2) certainly had their chances against the Rebels (13-3, 1-1), which has now captured five of the past seven against Georgia which had won six straight at home.
Wednesday's contest featured 11 lead changes, with the Bulldogs' final advantage coming at 69-68 with 5:39 to play following a jumper by Ricky McPhee.
Georgia went ice cold after that, scoring just one point over the final 2:19, although the Bulldogs were within two with 1:02 to play before a layup by Eniel Polynice with 13 seconds left accounted for the final margin of victory.
"I thought Georgia did a great job tonight," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "They play well at home. Mark has done a great job with them. Their play caused us a lot of problems; especially inside
they're the second-biggest team in the SEC."
After shooting 48.2 percent the first half, Georgia struggled to shoot just 34.5 percent (10-for-29) in the second.
"We didn't play against the zone well the second half," Fox said. "We took a couple of poor shots, but I think you have to give them credit; we just didn't play a well the second half as we did the first."
Fox felt fatigue was an issue.
"I was fearful of it. I was losing sleep about it, but after a hard-fought game on the road against a nationally-ranked team, that is often the case," he said. "When you have to dig down so deeply to compete and hang in on the road, the tank's a little empty the next time out. That's to take nothing away from Ole Miss. They're a very good ball club, but we didn't play as well as we needed to."
Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs with 21 points, but was held to just seven in the second half. He was followed by Travis Leslie with 17, followed by McPhee with 15 and Dustin Ware with 11.
Chris Warren was one of four Ole Miss players in double figures, finishing with a game-high 12.
"These (Kentucky and Ole Miss) were hard-fought games," Leslie said. "We just got to keep competing to the end, hit our free throws and play to the buzzer. This game we fell short."
Georgia returns to action Saturday with a road game at Mississippi State before returning home next Wednesday against Tennessee.
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