Fox’s emotion a fuel for Bulldogs

Mark Fox’s tears touched many.

Not just those seated near the Georgia men’s basketball coach on the bench that patted him on the back after he was overcome by emotion in the waning seconds of the Bulldogs’ 70-64 overtime win at No. 21 Missouri Wednesday night.

Or players Nemanja Djurisic, Charles Mann and Brandon Morris. They hugged him when the final buzzer sounded a night after Fox had attended a memorial service for his father Raymond Lewis Fox, who died last Saturday in the family’s hometown of Garden City, Kan.

“Three seconds left, I saw him crying,” said Djurisic, a junior forward from Montenegro. “I was waiting for the time to go so I could hug him and share the moment with him because I know how much it meant for him and for us definitely to get a win against such an opponent.”

The famous — a U.S. Senator and a SportsCenter anchor — and the not so famous — 60-year old men who Fox’s father coached in high school — also reached out to Fox.

“I heard from too many people to respond to, which I feel bad about,” Fox said Friday.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss from Georgia contacted Fox. ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt tweeted to him after the Georgia win: “Lost my father far too long ago, I can recall the fog of the days after. Happy is hard to find. Hope tonight brought some.”

Kent Davison, Georgia’s director of basketball operations, joined Fox in traveling to Garden City on Tuesday. Fox flew home early Saturday following Georgia’s loss Friday night at George Washington, but didn’t make it home in time before his father had passed.

“He had a hard couple of days, maybe a hard week,” said Mann, a sophomore guard. “He was going through a lot.”

Fox returned to Athens Sunday to prepare for the Missouri game, but went home again Tuesday for the service. Fox and Davison made the drive of some 500 miles from Garden City to Columbia, arriving at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Fox broke down after his team reached deep down to get a stunning win in its SEC opener.

“It kind of hit me at one time,” Fox said. “I probably didn’t take time to really grieve properly before then. A little embarrassed it happened, but it did.”

Fox Sports 1 named Fox its “Best Person in Sports” on Wednesday night. USA Today called to speak to Fox Thursday about what he went through in the last week. Fox chatted on a SiriusXM radio show with former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl on Friday.

“It became a little bit too much of a story about that,” Fox said. “It should have been about our team.”

Fox liked how Georgia dealt with adversity and wants to see now how his team handles success in today’s 4 p.m. game in Stegeman Coliseum against Alabama.

“We celebrated that night, but we flushed it,” Mann said. “We’ve been worrying about Alabama.”

Georgia (7-6, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) can start 2-0 in league play for the first time since the 2001-02 season in Jim Harrick’s third season as coach. To get there, it will have to beat an Alabama team that has won five straight against the Bulldogs.

‚ÄúIt was a confidence booster,‚Äù Mann said. ‚ÄúWe saw that we can beat a good team. … Of course, with (Fox‚Äôs) loss, we wanted to win it for him, but we wanted to win for the tam and just start off the SEC good, undefeated with a win.‚Äù

Georgia looked like a lower-tier team in the SEC in nonconference play. The Bulldogs’ previous six wins came against teams that currently rank 230 or below in the RPI, but Georgia stepped up on the defensive end and in rebounding like Fox wanted to end Missouri’s 26-game home winning streak.

Djurisc said Georgia had a “great mental approach” to the game and wanted to play well for Fox and for themselves.

“I think it was a good win,” Fox said. “I don’t know how emotional our team was. I was emotional. They were happy they won, but I was the only one that I think was super emotional, but it is something that we can look back on and draw from and hopefully build on.”

ALABAMA at GEORGIA

WHEN/WHERE: 4 p.m. today/Stegeman Coliseum.

TV/RADIO: SEC TV/The Ref 960-AM

RECORDS: Alabama is 7-7, 1-0 SEC; Georgia is 7-6, 1-0 SEC.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Alabama– G Trevor Releford (Sr., 6-0, 190, 18.3 ppg, 2.8 apg); G Levi Randolph (Jr., 6-5, 205, 10.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg); G Retin Obaosohan (RSo., 6-1, 205, 13.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F Shannon Hale (Fr., 6-8, 220, 5.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg); C Carl Engstrom (Jr., 7-1, 265, 2.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg). Georgia – G Charles Mann (So., 6-5, 210, 13.4 ppg, 2.9 apg); G Kenny Gaines (So., 6-3, 195, 11.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg); F Brandon Morris (Jr., 6-7, 215, 9.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg; F Marcus Thornton (RJr., 6-8, 235, 6.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg); F Donte Williams (Sr., 6-9, 225, 6.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

SERIES: Alabama leads 93-47. The Crimson Tide has won five straight, including wins each of the past two years in Athens.

LAST MEETING: Alabama beat Georgia 61-58 on March 9, 2013 in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide won on a 3-pointer at the buzzer from about halfcourt by Releford. The Bulldogs had rallied from down 17. Nemanja Djurisic and Kenatvious Caldwell-Pope each had 14. Releford scored 19 to lead Alabama.

SEASON AT A GLANCE: Alabama opened SEC play with a 68-63 home win against Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. The Crimson Tide is one of two SEC teams without a winning overall record but it has played one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Alabama’s losses include to Duke, Wichita State, Xavier and UCLA. Georgia snapped a two-game losing streak with a 70-64 overtime win at No. 21 Missouri in its SEC opener. The Bulldogs had lost seven straight to ranked opponents. Mann scored 18 and forward Nemanja Djurisic added 16 off the bench.

NOTEWORTHY: Anthony Grant (93-59 at Alabama) and Mark Fox (72-69 at Georgia) are both in their fifth season coaching at their respective schools. Each has led his team to one NCAA tournament appearance.‚ĶReleford, the SEC‚Äôs active career leader in points (1,537), steals (227) and assists (334), scored 34 in a 75-67 loss at UCLA. He is seventh in the SEC in scoring this season and first in free throw percentage at 92.6‚ĶObasohan leads the SEC and ranks 10th in the nation in steals per game at 2.7. … Hale was a four-star recruit who attended Christ School in Arden, N.C. … Engstrom has returned from a torn ACL and MCL sustained on Dec. 11, 2012. … Crimson Tide forward Nick Jacobs averages 9.5 points and 4.1 rebounds off the bench. … Georgia is fourth in the SEC in field goal percentage at 47.7, but is last in the SEC in free throw shooting at 64 percent … This is the Bulldogs‚Äô first home game since a two-point win against Western Carolina on Dec. 21. … Alabama is 12th in the SEC in rebounding margin at plus 0.3. … This is the only game between the schools in the regular season.

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