If Georgia fails to make the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs will only have to look back at a series of second-half collapses as one of the big reason why.
In the 25 games leading up to Saturday afternoon's contest ( 1 p.m., CBS) at Tennessee (16-10, 6-5), Mark Fox's squad (17-8, 6-5) has been outscored in the second half 11 times, losing five times after heading into the final 20 minutes with a lead.
That's a trend senior Chris Barnes knows cannot continue.
"It's been very frustrating. It seems like we get a lead and then we get lackadaisical and don't put on defensive pressure," Barnes said Friday before the team left for Knoxville. "We've got to play a complete 40 minutes if we want to win games. That's something we've talked about as a team, something we've talked about in the lockerroom. We're hoping to correct that (Saturday) against Tennessee."
If the Bulldogs hope to earn an at-large bid as one of the 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament, they'll need to turn that aspect of their play around soon.
Collapses like the one that occurred in Wednesday's 64-56 loss to Vanderbilt, after the Commodores outscored Georgia 24-3 over the final 9:48, certainly cannot be tolerated.
"The key has been our second-half rebounding, recently. That has been an area of deficiency. We gave up 10 offensive rebounds two halves in a row and that's an unacceptable number. We've certainly brought attention to that," Fox said. "I don't think we're experienced enough, mature enough, where we're handling leads as well as I would like. I don't think we've grown enough for me to feel comfortable to how we're responding to those right now. It's part of the process."
Twice this year, the Bulldogs scored the same amount as their opponent in the second half - winning one and losing one.
The one loss was a 59-57 loss to Tennessee back on Jan. 18 in Athens.
"We've really emphasized a game is 40 minutes and not 20. Everybody is harping on the same thing. The last two games, it's been the same thing," junior Trey Thompkins said. "But we're holding each other accountable. We'll take care of it."
The Bulldogs have five more opportunities before the SEC Tournament tips off March 10 in Atlanta. Thompkins and company would just as soon not have to go into the tournament needing a repeat of the program's 2008 miracle in order to go dancing later on next month.
"We get a lead and we get comfortable. We forget that teams aren't going to come out and just lay down," Thompkins said. "But we also understand that's something we can fix; we're going to fix it."
But until they start actually doing it on the court, Barnes knows the talk won't mean much.
"I think it's a mental thing. Being up on a top-25 team like Vanderbilt, it was a good feeling but I think we got lazy at the end and they came back and ended up winning," Barnes said. "We just have to put two halves together. We played good defense at the beginning of the game, but in the second half it seems we come out a little slow defensively. It's something we've got to concentrate on doing."
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