Georgia Bulldogs: SEC tournament

ATHENS, Ga. -- Half-court buzzer-beaters, last-second jump shots, ill-timed and questionable whistles -- all of those elements have contributed to a series of last-minute losses for Georgia in the last two months.

“We keep it interesting,” said Bulldogs forward Nemanja Djurisic, whose team’s most recent loss came Saturday, when Alabama’s Trevor Releford drained a 60-footer at the buzzer to give the Crimson Tide a 61-58 victory.

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AP Photo/Vasha Hunt/Alabama Media GroupEven with Alabama's win over Georgia last weekend, the Bulldogs' average margin of loss in a 13-game stretch in SEC play is just 4.6 points.
But while Djurisic and the Bulldogs have lost more than their fair share of heartbreakers since late January, they have also proved something to themselves.

“We know we can compete with any team in the league if we play the way we can play to win,” Freshman All-SEC point guard Charles Mann said. “So that’s not really a big problem with us. It gave us a lot of confidence.”

This young Georgia team got off to an atrocious start, first by dropping seven of their first nine games of the season and then by starting SEC play with a 1-4 mark. And yet as the season progressed, SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the way, freshmen like Mann, forward Brandon Morris and shooting guard Kenny Gaines began to settle in and the Bulldogs suddenly became competitive.

Entering Thursday’s SEC tournament opener against LSU (18-11, 9-9 SEC), Georgia (15-16, 9-9) has won eight of its last 13 conference games -- and every game the Bulldogs lost easily could have been a victory. Their widest margin of defeat in that 13-game stretch was a 10-point loss at Ole Miss, but that came in overtime after forward Donte Williams missed a tip-in that would have won the game at the end of regulation. Including that loss, Georgia’s average margin of defeat in those games is just 4.6 points.

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HOOVER, Ala. -- Alex Wood walked the tightrope and fell, hopping from one jam to another in Georgia’s opening-round game against Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament. Meanwhile, the Commodores played a skilled game of trapeze in the field, showing off some slick fielding on their way to a 4-1 win Tuesday night at Regions Park.

Vanderbilt didn’t commit a single error and cut off a key threat in the fifth inning on a diving stop from first baseman Conrad Gregor, who fired the ball home to stop the Georgia baserunner in his tracks. The run would have tied the score and given UGA the momentum heading into the final third of the game. Instead, Vanderbilt continued to make plays and rode a wave of momentum the Bulldogs couldn’t turn back.

The game ended on a spectacular diving catch in left field from Jack Lupo, who had to lay out to haul in the final out.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia opens SEC tournament play against Mississippi State at 10 p.m. ET Thursday in New Orleans, hoping to duplicate the 2008 UGA club’s stunning run to a tournament championship.

This year’s Bulldogs (14-16, 5-11 SEC) have actually been more competitive than Dennis Felton’s bunch in 2008 (13-16 overall and 4-12 in the SEC), which shocked the college basketball world by winning three games in two days after tornadoes wreaked havoc in downtown Atlanta and affected the tournament schedule.

Nonetheless, this UGA club enters the tournament as an extreme long shot, just as the 2008 team did. It would require another magical run for Georgia to reach the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2001-02.

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