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McGarity believes Georgia program still growing with Fox

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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Tuesday he remains confident in coach Mark Fox after the Bulldogs missed the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in seven seasons.

The Bulldogs finished 20-14 with a second-round NIT loss to Saint Mary's. Georgia's only NCAA appearances under Fox came in 2015 and 2011.

Georgia closed the season strong by winning six of its last eight, but that wasn't enough to overcome three straight losses in February. McGarity said ''nobody was happy not being in the show'' but said he still believes the program is on the rise.

McGarity said he saw ''continuous improvement'' in the season, including from top scorers J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, who will return next season. He said he also liked the progress of the team's freshmen, including forward Derek Ogbeide, another returning starter.

''I think everybody felt a different vibe this year than in the past,'' McGarity said. ''I think that's a credit to Mark and his assistant coaches for really identifying players who can play at this level.''

McGarity said he remains confident Georgia can have greater success under Fox. ''Otherwise there would be a different story line,'' he said.

Georgia has posted three straight winning records in the Southeastern Conference for only the second time in school history. But only one of those seasons produced a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

There will be an increased expectation for a bigger NCAA postseason payoff next year.

''That's everybody's goal,'' McGarity said. ''We'd like to be in the show and then move forward in the show. If you asked every player, I'd be stunned if they didn't say expectations are going to be high next year.''

Fox said Georgia should have strong depth next season. He knows there will be expectations for a return to the NCAA field.

''Now, because the foundation is in place, we can start swinging for the next level,'' Fox said. ''...I think the program is in position so now we can try and take that next step.''

Fox said there also is a growing expectation ''to compete within this league, to try to get to a point where we can win a championship. We haven't done that a lot in our history.''

Junior guard Juwan Parker missed the season with an Achilles injury. If Parker makes a successful recovery, he could help the team replace senior guards Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann. Parker started 14 games in the 2014-15 season.