Old rival Auburn was in the Classic City for the rematch. Georgia-Auburn 3:30 Saturday just sounds right. It wasn’t, though. Not for Georgia, who now barely lead the all-time series 94-93.
Back on January 20th at The Jungle, Georgia jumped to a huge sixteen-point first-half lead and led by fourteen at the break, in a game our team had to have to crack .500 at 4-3. Instead, we were super-soundly smoked in the second stanza as Aubie shot the lights out. We entered the February contest just 4-7 in-league and NCAA-out.
That day their leading scorer, junior guard Bryce Brown had twenty-eight, but he had a bad shoulder and sat Saturday. (#8) Auburn still opting to go with a lightning-quick four-guard lineup, per usual, though without their top guy. Somewhat reminiscent of the football series this season, where running back Kerryon Johnson dominated at Auburn then was nicked up and ineffective in the rematch in the state of Georgia.
On the basketball hardwood of Stegeman Coliseum it was a different story, as Auburn is simply better than Georgia in basketball this year. Suddenly, it must be said that the Mark Fox hot seat watch is in effect.
Coach Fox has led Georgia to three consecutive twenty-win seasons for the first time in school history, over the past three seasons. That says a whole heck of a lot. First, we simply haven’t been very good in men’s basketball. Second, Fox has the program the most consistent it has ever been, though Hall of Famer Hugh Durham definitely had some nice stretches, including the lone Final Four the season after Dominique Wilkins left Georgia.
But we’re free falling, losing an unacceptable 8-of-10, in a once-promising season. Even still, Yante Maten is the deserving frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year. He’s stayed near the top in points with one of the Arkansas marksmen all season long and came in the game leading in scoring with 19.3. He has lead in rebounding (he entered the game third), free throw percentage, field goal percentage. It’s a real shame a legitimate strong two hasn’t stepped up alongside Maten this season. He paired with playmaker J.J. Frazier last year for a more successful season than this one so far, that team missing the Big Dance.
The ultimate responsibility for advancement falls to Fox. The prime benefactor of and key blame taker for wins and losses is the head basketball coach. Right now, he isn’t getting it done in Athens.
A trip to Florida is upcoming on Valentine’s Day. It’d break my heart to see Fox end up going at the end of this season, as he has shown adaptive resiliency and grit, and he really can coach college basketball.
But a lost season when you have the best player in the league is such a damning indictment on any program. Even at Georgia, where we’ve celebrated his limited success. Could another Mark be leaving UGA?