NASHVILLE -- And now, they wait.

Once again, the Georgia Bulldogs have left their postseason fate in the hands of selection committees and computers. But it wasn’t from a lack of trying.

Georgia couldn’t play any harder or more desperate than it did Thursday night against Florida. But after losing to the Gators for the third time this season, this time 85-80 in the second round of the SEC Tournament, the metrics were looking mighty murky for the Bulldogs.

The loss leaves the 11th-seeded Bulldogs at 17-16 overall and keeps them out of the conference tournament’s third round for an eighth consecutive season. Coming in with a NET ranking of 100, there’s an outside chance Georgia still could end up with a bid to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

To be clear, that’s an invitation the Bulldogs would happily accept. There are some SEC teams that might decline should one come their way.

“I’m not going to sit here and lobby and I don’t know anything about it really,” Georgia second-year coach Mike White said. “We’re still locked in on trying to advance here. So, I don’t know who deserves to be in the NIT, but we’d be excited to be in it. Absolutely. I don’t care what tournament it is; we love to compete.”

With its third win over the Bulldogs this season, sixth-seeded Florida improves to 22-10. The Gators will draw No. 3 seed Alabama (21-10) in Friday’s third round.

In the end, Florida’s size just proved to be too much to overcome. The Bulldogs fought hard to record a 23-20 rebounding edge in the first half. But after a halftime motivational session, the Gators came out in the second and out-boarded Georgia 32-13. Included in that number was an astounding 12 offensive rebounds.

“That was the difference in the game,” Florida coach Todd Golden said. “We won the rebounding battle in all three games. I think that’s the easiest way to say it. Plus-16 on the boards tonight.”

Like it did in the other meetings against the Gators, however, Georgia still had a chance to win, a very good chance, in fact. The Bulldogs led by as many as seven points in the second half, was tied at 68-all with five minutes to play, was within one with the ball with 2:26 to go and remained within one possession until Florida made its last two free throws with five seconds to go. Even then, Silas Demary got off a 3-pointer that missed.

Add it all up and it was yet another excruciating close loss. There have been many Sixteen of Georgia’s 33 outings this season were one-possession games in the final five minutes, including 11 in the last 30 seconds. “It’s just a tough feeling,” said Georgia freshman Silas Demary Jr., who along with Noah

Thomasson led the Bulldogs with 14 points. “I mean, we play hard. I feel like we played hard for the entire 40. There’s no quit in us. Obviously we had a few mistakes, some live-ball turnovers, I missed two big-time layups. You can’t blame anybody because we all play together, but I kind of blame myself because I missed some big-time plays.

“Obviously, I’m upset we lost because I felt like we played hard and deserved that win. But sometimes that’s how things go.”

Demary missed an open layup on a dribble-drive with the Dogs down four at the 4:12 mark. Twenty-three seconds later, Blue Cain had his point-blank floater blocked by Tyrese Samuel. Georgia fouled trying to gather the rebound.

Samuel made two fouls shots as a result -- the second a do-over of a miss after the Bulldogs were called for a lane violation. That gave the Gators the six-point cushion it needed to get out of Bridgestone Arena with a win. Samuel was 9-of-23 from the foul line on the night.

Georgia also got key steals from Russel Tchewa and RJ Melendez in the closing two and a half minutes. But the Bulldogs were unable to convert after either stolen possession and therefore could never wrest away the lead.

They Gators closed out the game at the foul line. They took 41 free throws in the game, making only 23, but those proved the difference. Georgia was 15-of-27 from the line.

Georgia had four players score in double figures. Hill and Melendez each had 13. Already at a size disadvantage in the game, Tchewa, the Bulldogs’ only 7-footer, was whistled for a very questionable second foul and had to leave the game just 3:08 into it. Forward Jalen Deloach, whose face was bloodied five minutes in, returned only to foul out with 4:34 to play. Tchewa was among four other players to finish the game with four fouls after playing limited minutes.

Not surprisingly, White was called for a technical foul with 10:26 remaining in the game. That came not long after Georgia had lost its lead and immediately after DeLoach was whistled for his fourth foul.

It made for a costly Florida possession, taking its one-point lead up to 58-52 in a matter of seconds. Afterward, White insisted all he did was “voice my displeasure” and wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“I was displeased with some calls,” the Bulldogs’ second-year coach said. “I voiced my opinion, which is very prevalent in this league. I walked away. A few seconds later the whistle blew and I was charged with a technical foul. That’s it.”

Georgia entered Game 6 of the tournament feeling like it needed to best the Gators to lock up a postseason bid for the first time since playing in the NIT in 2017.

The Bulldogs’ NET ranking of 100 was below No. 95 LSU (17-15, 9-10) and No. 92 Ole Miss (20-12, 7-12), SEC teams with better regular-season records that also lost games in Thursday’s second round.

White was sincerely hoping his team gets to play again.

“Until the ball stops bouncing, we’ll keep swinging away at becoming our best,” he said. “Maybe our name will be called in the NIT and maybe we can advance. I know one thing: Our guys will work, show up for practice. If we find out Saturday or Sunday we’re playing, I know we’ll have a good practice on Monday because that’s what this team does.”