The toughest week of Mark Fox’s professional life was injected with a sudden and unexpected bolt of joy.
Fox’s father, Raymond Lewis Fox, was buried in Garden City, Kan., on Tuesday. On Wednesday, 500 miles to the east, his team shocked the college basketball world as the Georgia Bulldogs — ranked 242nd in the latest RPI index — shocked No. 21-ranked Missouri 70-64 in Columbia, Mo.
The victory lifted Georgia to 7-6 on the season (1-0 SEC) and broke the Tigers’ national best home-court winning streak at 26 games. It was the Bulldogs’ first win ever in five games against Missouri.
Fox was obviously emotionally drained, breaking into a sob on the Georgia bench in the final few seconds of overtime when victory was assured. He had scrambled to get home to his ailing father after the Bulldogs played in Washington, D.C. on Friday but didn’t make it. Fox went home to Kansas on Saturday, returned to Athens to prepare his team to face Missouri on Sunday and Monday, then went back to Garden City on Tuesday before re-joining his team in Columbia on Wednesday.
“To win at an old Big Eight school the day after my father passed was very special for me,” Fox told reporters at the postgame press conference.
Charles Mann led the Bulldogs in scoring with 18 points while Nemanja Djurisic added 16 points and Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively. Morris tallied a team high seven rebounds in 29 minutes while Mann and Marcus Thornton added 6 boards. The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 43-34 and shot 43 percent from the field to Mizzou’s 39. They’ll play host to Alabama in their SEC home opener on Saturday
“I’m really proud of our team,” Fox said. “I’ve been critical of the defense, their rebounding, and their toughness and tonight those three things won it for us,” said Georgia head coach Mark Fox. “I wasn’t their yesterday but our staff did a great job preparing our team. We had the right mentality when we came to the game tonight. I thought we were very attached mentally to our game plan and had very few mistakes. We gathered ourselves and Nemi (Djurisic) recomposed himself and we finished the game really well.”
Georgia fell behind by five points early in the overtime period. After an Earnest Ross free throw gave the Tigers a 63-58 lead, Djurisic began finding success in the low post. Three Djurisic baskets led the Bulldogs into a 63-63 tie at the 1:40 mark and from there Georgia would not trail again. Georgia finished the contest on a 12-1 run over the final 2:30.
Here’s A LINK to a photo gallery from the game.