Athens, GA - The Georgia men's basketball team's 22-point rally fell just short as it lost to Louisiana Tech 79-71 Saturday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Georgia (20-14) was led by J.j Frazier who scored 15 points. Marcus Thornton and Charles Mann each had six rebounds.
Georgia outscored Louisiana Tech (29-7) by 11 points in the second half, but couldn't overcome a 19-point halftime deficit. The home Bulldogs trailed by as many as 26 points in the first frame.
"Obviously we had a terrible start and dug such a big hole that we just couldn't get all the way out of it," said head coach Mark Fox. "I thought we made a lot of mental errors in the first half. Those were very costly because Louisiana Tech has a good team, and good teams make you pay for mistakes. I thought we could still win the game at the half. We get [the deficit] back to [six points], but we have no timeouts to manage the end of the game. We just got outplayed and didn't play well enough at the start to have a chance of winning at the end."
Georgia made multiple runs in the second half to pull the game within two possessions. With four minutes left, Georgia pulled to within seven points off of a Thornton free throw. After Tech extended its lead back to double digits, Georgia went on a 10-3 run to pull within six points and have possession, before Louisiana Tech's Kenyon McNeail pick pocketed Frazier as he drove to the basket.
With 30 seconds remaining, Georgia made one final push, getting to within four points off of a Frazier three-pointer, but Georgia wouldn't make another shot and Louisiana Tech converted on a pair of free throws to secure the win.
In the first half, Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 22-4 lead in the half's first six minutes, and started an 11-0 run at the half's midpoint to take a 39-19 lead. The home Bulldogs, however, outscored the visitors 14-7 down the stretch to cut the deficit to 19 points headed into halftime. Louisiana Tech shot over 50 percent in the opening half, including 60 percent from three-point range.
Louisiana Tech was led by Alex Hamilton and Chris Anderson who scored 20 and 18 points, respectively.
"I think that what I told the players is that it's hard to understand today because you lost the game," continued Fox. "But I thought they restored a great deal of pride in Georgia basketball—to win 20 games, to finish second in the SEC, to advance in the postseason. I think that they did some things that they should feel good about and we should all feel about. I'm not happy with how we played today, and I'll probably never get over that. But I do think that this team did a lot of really positive things. And I think that the support from our fans show that they appreciate it too."
Georgia ends the 2013-14 campaign with a 20-14 record. Donte' Williams was the lone senior on this year's squad.
• Georgia's starting line-up was Marcus Thornton (60th career start), Brandon Morris (45th career start), Charles Mann (40th career start), Kenny Gaines (32nd career start) and Donte' Williams (92nd career start).
• Georgia faced its largest first-half deficit (-26) of the season.
• After trailing in the rebounding battle in the first half, Georgia ended the game with a 40-30 rebounding advantage. It was just the Bulldogs' fifth loss when outrebounding their opponent.
• Georgia set the school season record for most made free throws in a season (642), which was a previously 628.
Georgia in the NIT....
• Georgia is making its 12th appearance and its first since 2007.
• The Bulldogs are now 12-12 all-time in the NIT.
The Series: Georgia falls to 1-1 all-time against Louisiana Tech.
Season Quick Hits…
• Georgia reached the postseason for the 21st time in program history. It was their 12th appearance in the NIT and its first since 2007.
• Georgia won 20 games for the 12th time in program history and its second in the last 12 years.
• Georgia won at least 12 conference games for just the third time in program history.
• Georgia finished tied for second in the conference. It's just the fourth time that the Bulldogs have finished second or higher in SEC play.
• For the first time in 24 years, Georgia swept four regular-season series.
• For the first time in 17 seasons, Georgia won two road conference games by 10+ points (Miss. State, South Carolina).
• For the first time since 1996, Georgia posted seven wins by double-digits in SEC play.
• Sophomore Charles Mann was named to the Coaches' All-SEC Second Team.
• Georgia shot over 50 percent from the field 11 times this season—more than the number of 50+ percent shooting games over the previous two seasons combined.
• Georgia had seven RPI Top-100 wins.
• Georgia set the school record for most free throws attempted in a season and set the new mark for most free throws made in a season.