Georgia loses big lead, then the game

Wednesday’s 72-68 loss to Arkansas was extra miserable for Georgia.

While Georgia (9-11, 1-6) has squandered many halftime leads this year, it was hard to imagine this one getting away, the Bulldogs up by 15 against a 10-11 Razorback team.

But there was no rowdy sold-out crowd at Stegeman Coliseum, like there was for the Tennessee game, and atmosphere wasn’t going to play a huge role in this one. After all, it was Signing Day and Georgia fans were somewhat spent awaiting word on prospects.

Yet for a while it looked like none of that would matter for a team that had lost five of its last six and was desperate for a win. Georgia went on 15-0 and 12-0 runs in the first half, building the comfortable 37-22 halftime lead.

But with the exception of the Tennessee game, no halftime lead has been safe this winter.

Arkansas outscored Georgia 24-8 to start the second half and took the lead with 10 minutes to play. From then on, neither team led by more than four points. But Georgia had left it on the table for Arkansas and the Razorbacks grabbed it.

Arkansas guard Courtney Fortson did most of the damage, scoring 19 of his 27 points in the second half.

“I was very disappointed in our defensive performance,” coach Mark Fox said. “We’re not making progress in that area. It is failing us. It failed us time and time again in the second half. It’s crushing this team."

Trey Thompkins led Georgia with 21 points, but that total is misleading. Thompkins was just 5-of-17 shooting until the last couple minutes, when he converted a couple of short shots. His drive with 1:27 pulled Georgia to within a point at 67-66. Fortson then made one of two free throws on Arkansas’ next possession.

But Travis Leslie turned the ball over with 23 second to play. Georgia put Fortson back on the line and he made both, giving Arkansas a four-point lead. Thompkins’ driving lay up brought Georgia to within two with 15 second to play.

But after Fortson again made just one of two at the line, Ricky McPhee’s long three-pointer missed short and Arkansas iced it with a couple final free throws.

“I told our guys that Fortson would come out with a charge in the second half, just like he did against Ole Miss,” Fox said. “He had a stronger will to get it done than we had to stop him.”

The Razorbacks scored the game's first five points, but Georgia then reeled off 15 straight, seldom settling for a less-than-ideal shot. Arkansas meanwhile went ice cold, going six and a half minutes without a field goal.

But with a 12-point lead, Georgia went deeper into its bench in the first half. And the results weren’t promising as the less-experienced Dogs turned the ball time and again. Even when the starters returned, the turnovers continued, as Georgia turned the ball over on five straight possessions. But Georgia still managed to end the half on a 12-0 run.

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