Maten's 19 points lead Georgia past Hale, Alabama, 70-63
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia's three straight wins to close the regular season won't be enough to put the Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Mark Fox believes the strong finish left Georgia in position to use next week's Southeastern Conference Tournament to at least enter the NCAA discussion.
Yante Maten scored 19 points and Georgia overcame a season-high 25 points by Shannon Hale to beat slumping Alabama 70-63 on Saturday in the final regular-season game for each team.
Georgia (17-12, 10-8 SEC) appears bound for an NIT bid unless it wins the SEC Tournament. Fox said two wins next week might be enough.
''I feel like we still have some work to do,'' Fox said when asked about his team's NCAA chances.
''If we do scratch out a couple more, I do feel we're worthy of consideration.''
Alabama (17-13, 8-10), which had been considered an NCAA bubble team, lost four of five games to leave its postseason outlook uncertain.
''It's been a roller-coaster ride during the regular season,'' said Alabama coach Avery Johnson. ''I told the team I'm proud of them. Anything can happen in the SEC tournament. We've shown we can get hot, so hopefully in this new season ... we can turn some of these misfortunes around that we've had at the end of the regular season.''
Alabama's Retin Obasohan, who had 15 points, sank two 3-pointers in the final 33 seconds. Georgia protected its lead as J.J. Frazier, who had 17 points, made each of his eight free throws in the final minute.
Hale finished two points shy of matching his career scoring high before he fouled out with 1:06 remaining.
Maten's three-point play gave Georgia a 58-52 lead. Two free throws by Frazier pushed the lead to 61-54.
Georgia held a 27-25 halftime lead even though Frazier and Kenny Gaines were scoreless. That changed quickly after halftime.
After missing each of his six shots from the field in the first half, including five 3-pointers, Gaines opened the second half with a 3-pointer. Frazier, who had been 0 for 8 from the field in the opening 20 minutes, followed with another 3.
Georgia took the unusual path of relying on its inside scorers for a 27-25 halftime lead. Derek Ogbeide doubled his normal output for a full game with eight first-half points. He did not score in the second half.
Alabama: Arthur Edwards was taken straight to the locker room after taking a hard fall with 6:11 remaining. Johnson said Edwards had severe cramps. ... Jimmie Taylor blocked five shots, all in the first half.
Georgia: Seniors Charles Mann, who had 12 points, and Gaines received standing ovations in a ceremony before their final home regular-season game. The two helped the Bulldogs finish .500 or better in SEC play for four straight years - a first for the program. ... The start of spring break hurt the student turnout in the crowd of 8,280. ... The Bulldogs took a 48-26 advantage in rebounds.
PITCH FOR ALABAMA
It's not unusual for coaches to lobby for other teams in their conference when NCAA tournament bids are on the line. Even so, Fox's postgame pitch for Alabama to make the NCAA field was particularly strong, and it came even before he discussed his team's postseason outlook.
Fox noted Alabama was 4-3 against Top 25 teams, a fact he said should make up for the Crimson Tide's poor finish to the regular season.
''They're a tournament-worthy team and their kids deserve the opportunity based on the schedule they played,'' Fox said.
The Bulldogs won despite having Frazier and Kenny Gaines, usually the team's best outside scoring threats, struggle from the field. Frazier scored 12 of his 17 points on free throws. Gaines had seven points, ending his run of three straight games with at least 20 points. The two combined to make only 4 of 20 shots from the field.
Alabama at SEC Tournament in Nashville.
Georgia at SEC Tournament in Nashville.