UGA’s Maten out indefinitely with knee sprain
Published on Sunday, 2/19/17, at 1:55 p.m. Eastern.
Georgia’s season has been full of gut-wrenching losses. The Bulldogs have faced the SEC’s top three teams on the road this year, losing in overtime at Florida and at Kentucky. They lost by two at South Carolina.
In the loss at UF, star forward Yante Maten fouled out in regulation. In the loss at UK, Mark Fox’s team led nearly the entire game and was up by two with less than 10 seconds remaining, only to see Malik Monk’s mid-range jumper force OT.
UGA led by double digits late in the second half at Texas A&M, but then it committed five turnovers in its last six possessions. Nevertheless, Maten was fouled with the Bulldogs trailing by one with several seconds left and appeared set for a pair of free-throw attempts.
As it turned out, however, the clock keeper had inexplicably stopped the clock for several seconds when it was dripping from about eight seconds down to five-ish. J.J. Frazier had lost control of his dribble and upon recovering, glanced at the clock and saw that he had about five seconds left to work with.
Therefore, Frazier knew had enough time to keep his dribble. When he couldn’t find his own shot, Frazier knew he had enough time to dish off to Maten, who went up to the rim and was fouled.
Georgia was completely screwed in this case when the officials broke out some obscure rule that apparently states that when the clock is stopped — by the A&M clock keeper in College Station — like it was in this instance, then refs have to break out a stop watch and time how long the play took. After doing so, the refs ruled that time would’ve run out on the Bulldogs and Maten wasn’t afforded a pair of free throws. It was just…game over.
What?! What about Frazier looking at the clock (obviously unaware that it had stopped moments beforehand) and literally seeing he had enough time to dribble and pass before time expired? It was total bullshit and it’s a rule that should be changed before next season.
Anyway, UGA went into Saturday’s home game against Kentucky with a 15-11 overall record and a 6-7 mark in SEC play. The Bulldogs knew they had to beat UK and rack up several more wins to have any shot at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Then 95 seconds into the game, Maten came down wrong on his knee and was forced to leave the game. Despite his pleas to return, UGA’s medical staff ruled him out for the rest of the game.
Despite the absence of Maten, a likely first-team All-SEC selection, Georgia was ahead by two with 55 seconds remaining in the game thanks to a season-high 36 points from Frazier.
But De’Aaron Fox would tie the game with a pair of free throws. Then Pape Diatta made a critical mistake. Instead of giving the ball back to the red-hot Frazier, he drove to the basket and took an ill-advised shot that was easily rejected. The ensuing loose-ball scramble resulted in a UGA foul on Fox, who hit both free throws again.
Frazier’s shot to tie the game was off the mark and UK rebounded, with Fox eventually getting fouled again. His clutch free throws were true again and the Wildcats captured an 82-77 win. UGA, as it often does in its heartbreaking defeats, did hook up its betting supporters as a 7.5-point home underdog.
The school announced Sunday morning that Maten won’t need surgery, but his knee sprain will keep him out indefinitely.
“I am very disappointed for Yante,” Fox said. “He loves to play, and it’s tough when that is taken away by injury. Fortunately, it appears that surgery is not needed, and he should make a full recovery in time.”
Maten is averaging 19.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. UGA returns to the court Thursday at Alabama, which routed the Dawgs at Stegeman Coliseum last month.
There’s speculation that Fox’s job security might be an issue. This space has repeatedly insisted that UGA would be making a mistake to move on from Fox, and John Calipari is also of that mindset (to be clear, I’m not thrilled to point out that Cal and I would ever agree on anything!).
At his post-game presser, Calipari went to bat for Fox in a big-time way. Calipari said, “He keeps his team together. That’s coaching. Not when things are going good. They do this without Maten. That’s what kind of coach Mark Fox is.”
Cal continued, “What Mark has been able to do here, and other coaches – he goes to Florida, overtime, and should have won the game. He comes to us, overtime – They should have won the game. I mean, we were lucky to win. Loses at Texas A&M because the clock stalled. The clock stalled and that’s why he loses the game. He keeps his team together and that’s coaching. Not when things are going good. It’s when things go south and you lose a bunch in a row and how do you get them and go? He goes to Tennessee down (14) and goes and wins the game. They had Florida beat with 30 seconds left, then they come in and do this to us without Maten. That’s what kind of coach Mark Fox is.”