Bulldogs guard against emotional letdown Saturday

For Mark Fox, the only downside to Wednesday’s upset win over Missouri was it became all about him.

Of course, the scene was impossible to ignore. With three seconds remaining in overtime and a Georgia victory assured, Fox buried his head in his hands and sobbed on the Bulldogs’ bench. His week had been an emotional roller coaster, learning of his father’s death after a loss in Washington on Friday, flying back and forth to Garden City, Kan., and burying his father there Tuesday, driving through the night to get to the Bulldogs’ game Wednesday 500 miles away in Columbia, Mo.

Then Fox yelled, stomped, praised and cajoled from the sideline as his team shocked the college basketball world and broke the nation’s longest home-court winning streak (26 games).

Then the emotional postgame scene became Highlight No. 2 on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and the photo of junior Nemanja Djurisic consoling his weeping coach went viral on the Internet. And Fox’s phone has been blowing up ever since. He’s heard from fellow coaches, past players, U.S. senators and white-haired 60-somethings who played for Raymond Fox back in the day.

Lost in all that, the Bulldogs’ fifth-year coach said Friday, was the tremendous accomplishment of the dozen players who did the real work Wednesday night and came out victorious at Mizzou Arena.

“I don’t think much of it was about me, to be honest with you,” Fox said of the players’ effort in the 70-64 win. “I think a lot of it was about them trying to get better and playing the way they had to play to win. I really do. We never talked about winning one for the Gipper. That was not the point of it. It was about winning for Georgia and playing the game the right way.”

Fox will look for more of the same as the Bulldogs (7-6, 1-0 SEC) play host to Alabama (7-7, 1-0) in Game 2 of the SEC schedule at 4 p.m. Saturday.

If Georgia is to keep this good vibe going, it will need do what it did on the court Wednesday night. That is, get defensive stops, rebound and score. And maybe add a few free throws. The Bulldogs’ inability to do that (13-of-26 on Wednesday) is the only reason the game was extended to overtime.

“It was mostly just playing how we should play,” said sophomore point guard Charles Mann, who led the Bulldogs with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. “Of course (Fox’s) loss gave us a little something, but I wouldn’t say that’s why we won. We just went out there with a mindset of not losing and giving it everything we’ve got and playing hard. That’s what we did, and we came out with a victory.”

The Crimson Tide are led by one of the better players in the SEC. Senior point guard Travis Releford ranked among the league’s top players in scoring (18.3 ppg), shooting (51 percent), 3-point percentage (41 percent), 3-point shots made (2.5 pg) and steals (2.5 pg). “He’s putting up first-round draft pick kind of numbers,” Fox said.

As for the show of raw emotion he displayed at the end of the game, Fox said he regrets that.

“Really it just kind of hit me at one time because I probably didn’t take time to really grieve properly before then,” Fox said. “I’m a little embarrassed it happened. … It became too much of a story about that. It should have been about our team.”