Georgia Bulldogs basketball struggling, lose fifth straight

STARKVILLE, MS - January 12, 2022 - Kario Oquendo (3) of the Georgia Bulldogs offers a smile during Wednesday's  against Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss. (Photo By Austin Perryman for UGA Athletics)

Credit: Mississippi State Athletics

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STARKVILLE, MS - January 12, 2022 - Kario Oquendo (3) of the Georgia Bulldogs offers a smile during Wednesday's against Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss. (Photo By Austin Perryman for UGA Athletics)

Credit: Mississippi State Athletics

We interrupt all the Georgia football championship celebration and revelry for this important men’s basketball update.

It’s not going real well.

There it is. Not a whole lot more to say about it.

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Bulldogs

As for details, the Bulldogs lost their fifth game in a row Wednesday night, this one an 88-72 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville. This one followed the script of most of the other losses.

That is, Georgia was competitive in the first half, then melted like a pat of butter in a hot iron skillet in the second half. The Bulldogs led by three at halftime, only to be outscored 53-36 in the second half.

Georgia (5-11, 0-3 SEC) is back home Saturday to face Vanderbilt (9-6, 1-2) at 6 p.m. (ESPN2).

“We didn’t come out and stay with the same level of attack,” coach Tom Crean said of the second-half meltdown. “We did rebound, but we let go of the rope shortly after the eight-minute timeout when it was still a highly winnable game. You’ve just got to bear down and not watch the score.”

A small team that has encountered more than its share of injuries, the Bulldogs were outscored 52-26 in the paint. But the Bulldogs have found themselves a scorer.

Kario Oquendo poured in a career-high 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting along with six rebounds and two steals. He became the first Georgia player since Anthony Edwards (2019-20) with three consecutive 20-points outings. Oquendo did had six turnovers, however.

Georgia 72, Miss. State 88

Wednesday night was a familiar scenario for the Bulldogs, who also were leading Kentucky late in the first half before losing 92-77. Georgia also led Texas A&M by one at home in the final six seconds only to lose on a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining.

“We’ve had too many games where we’ve been down and lose our spirit and get distracted,” Crean said earlier this season.

It gets no easier. After Vandy, the Bulldogs hit the road for two games -- at No. 4 Auburn (15-1, 4-0 SEC), led by former Bulldog K.D. Johnson, and at South Carolina (10-5, 1-2).

“I think there’s a lack of toughness with us right now,” Crean said. “And there’s a lack of collective leadership to let guys know, ‘hey, we’re still going.’”

In Georgia’s defense, shorthanded all season, it played Wednesday without Dalen Ridgnal and Cam McDowell, who are just exiting COVID-19 protocol.

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