ATLANTA — It appeared Georgia had been bailed out by a bank shot.
After blowing a 14-point lead in seven minutes against Alabama, the Bulldogs redeemed themselves when Dustin Ware used the backboard to knock in a go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left.
Unfortunately for Georgia, head coach Mark Fox had just called a timeout. Therefore, the basket didn’t count, overtime followed and Alabama prevailed. The Crimson Tide scored the game’s final six points for a 65-59 victory in a quarterfinal of the SEC Tournament on Friday at the Georgia Dome.
“The referees obviously got it right,” Fox said. “Sure, I wish I hadn’t called it because the ball went in. That is a tough, tough break.”
Added Ware: “I thought it was a clean shot. Then I saw the referee wave it off. So I knew. It was definitely deflating but in the end Alabama made the plays and we didn’t.”
Ware’s running, floating 3-pointer from the top of the key came after Trevor Releford scored on a layup with 4.8 seconds remaining. That tied the game 53-53 and capped off a 19-5 run by Alabama (21-10), the West’s top seed.
Georgia (21-11) fumbled away a 14-point lead by making just one shot in the last 7:33 of regulation. The Bulldogs, the fourth seed out of the East, succumbed to Alabama’s pressure (the Crimson Tide allow just 58.8 points a game, which ranks sixth in the country) and turned the ball over four times in the last four minutes. They also missed six of their last 11 free throws.
“Their pressure wore on us — second game in two days — and you really didn’t see the effects of it until the second half,” Fox said. “You have to credit their defense for being pretty relentless. I don’t know if fatigue was a factor in free throws. We missed a handful.”
Alabama took its first lead since early in the first half on an offensive putback by Chris Hines with 2:47 left in overtime. A minute later, Tony Mitchell drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Crimson Tide the lead for good.
“The fight our guys showed was incredible,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.
Georgia’s Travis Leslie scored 15 of his season-high 24 points in the first half. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. Trey Thompkins added 19 points. Nashville native and Martin Luther King product Gerald Robinson had a career-high 11 assists and six steals but committed two critical turnovers in the last 90 seconds that led to Alabama points.
For the Crimson Tide, JaMycal Green had 20 points — 16 after halftime — and 13 rebounds. Charvez Davis chipped in 15 points and Mitchell finished with 10.
Alabama advances to play Kentucky in a semifinal at noon on Saturday and might have done enough to solidify a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It has a RPI of 85 and strength of schedule of 129 but now has two wins against Georgia to go along with a victory over Kentucky.
Georgia also is on the tournament bubble. The Bulldogs, however, believe they deserve a shot. Their non-conference losses are against Notre Dame, Xavier and Temple and their RPI and strength schedule are identical at 39.
“I think we are a tournament team. I don’t think we had to have this game to get into the NCAA Tournament,” Fox said. “The things the committee has traditionally asked us to do, I think we have put together a resume that answers all those questions. We don’t have a lot of negatives. ... This team has put itself in position to get serious consideration.”