March 9, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. ---- Trevor Releford’s long, desperate shot at the buzzer enabled Alabama to thwart a late Georgia rally and defeat the Bulldogs 61-58 in each team’s regular-season finale here Saturday.
Georgia (15-16, 9-9) will enter the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., next week as the No. 8 seed. The Bulldogs will play No. 9 seed LSU on Thursday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. (EDT).
Georgia, which trailed by as many as 17 points, had pulled even at 58 on a 3-pointer by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 48 seconds left. The Bulldogs then forced an Alabama turnover and had one final possession to win the game.
Charles Mann drove the lane and lost possession in heavy traffic. Bama’s Nick Jacobs recovered the ball and passed to Releford, who dribbled upcourt twice before launching his game-winner at an estimated 60 feet away.
“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 Nemi Djurisic with 11:56 left in the first half. The Bulldogs pulled with 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.
Still, Georgia did not get its deficit to a single possession until the final minute of play. Mann’s basket with 57 seconds left trimmed the margin to 58-55, setting up the final, dramatic series of plays that culminated in Releford’s game-winner.