Georgia’s lack of scoring punch didn’t doom the Bulldogs this time.
It was all those unguarded shots they couldn’t make from 15 feet that proved most costly.
Georgia made just 20 of 37 free throws — 54.1 percent — in an 81-78 overtime loss Saturday night to Iona in Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs fell to 2-7. They haven’t had a worse record after nine games since the 1970-71 season began with a 1-8 start.
“I’m sick of losing, as our team is, but we’ve got to play better basketball,” coach Mark Fox said.
Georgia lost for the seventh time in the last eight games.
“We’re off to a worse start than I anticipated,” Fox said. “I still like our team. We’re not playing complete enough to win, but like tonight, there’s prep schools that play older lineups than we had.”
Freshmen Charles Mann (18 points) and Brandon Morris (12 points) hit double figures in scoring for the first time as Bulldogs, but struggled at the line like the rest of their teammates.
Georgia made just 10 of 17 free throws in the second half and 6 of 15 in overtime.
The Bulldogs overcame a 12-point first half-deficit and led by as many as seven with 13:09 left in regulation, but struggles from the foul line proved fatal.
“It’s hard to win basketball games when you do that,” Fox said.
Georgia entered ranked 330th out of 345 Division I teams nationally in scoring at 56.8 points per game, but ended regulation tied at 66, its most points since scoring 68 against Jacksonville on Nov. 9. Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds, but the Bulldogs got more offensive balance than usual this season. Center Donte’ Williams added 16.
Mann, a 6-foot-4 guard, made just 7 of 13 from the free throw line. Morris, a 6-foot-7 forward, was 2 of 5.
The Bulldogs 66.2 free throw percentage before Saturday was ninth in the SEC, but none of the Bulldogs five players who went to the line reached that.
“It’s just tough,” Mann said. “They played great, and we just weren’t able to make our free throws today — me and the team.”
Iona went ahead for good on a 3-pointer in the corner from Curtis Dennis with 20.5 seconds left in overtime.
With a chance to tie the game if he could make a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds left, Georgia’s Nemanja Djurisic made his first, but was short off the rim on his second. Iona’s Sean Armand (18 points) went down to the other end and drained two after a foul for the final margin.
Fox said Georgia has shot more than 6,000 free throws in practice and made more than 75 percent of them.
“We haven’t transferred that to the game,” Fox said. “That is extremely frustrating because, as you see tonight, those are so critical.”
With Marcus Thornton — Georgia’s second leading rebounder — sidelined, the Bulldogs played what Fox called a “very awkward lineup and a very young lineup” that at times included three freshmen Mann, Morris and Kenny Gaines, who hit a jumper with 34 seconds left in overtime to give Georgia its final lead of the game at 76-75.
Morris started for the first time at Georgia. He was forced to play power forward after Georgia couldn’t match up with Iona, which made 12 of 36 3-pointers. The Bulldogs went to a smaller lineup after Fox said the zone wasn’t effective enough.
Iona (4-4) got a game-high 25 points from guard Lamont Jones.
“This is unbelievable,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said. “This is a program win for us. When you come to a place like this with the history like Georgia has and get a win on the road, it’s phenomenal for us.”
“It’s a disappointing start,” Fox said. “There’s no way around that. It’s my job to get us to win some games and we haven’t done that yet.”
Notes: Thornton is dealing again with knee injuries, but Fox said he didn’t know how long he’ll be out.
… A moment of remembrance was held before the game for the victims of the Newtown, Conn. shootings … Georgia’s next game is Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at home against Mercer. Nearly 4,000 Athens schoolchildren have been invited to attend the game. … Djurisic went 0 for 5 with five turnovers in 21 minutes. He is 4 of 26 shooting the last three games.