NASHVILLE - Apparently content to let their second-round SEC tournament game against LSU mirror their season, the Georgia Bulldogs waited until Thursday's second half to compete.
They waited too long.
In a first-half effort reminiscent of their 1-4 start in conference play, Georgia trailed by 20 at halftime before a furious rally fell just short in a 68-63 defeat.
"Just came out not ready to play," said UGA's newly named SEC player of the year Kentavious Caldwell Pope, who scored 25 of his game-high 32 points in the final half but missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 11 seconds to play.
"On the shoot-around we looked good. We just didn't carry it on to the game."
The defeat ends Georgia's season, the Bulldogs finishing 15-17 overall and 9-10 against conference foes. Led by Shavon Coleman's 24 points and Andre Stringer's 16, LSU (20-11, 10-9) will play regular-season champ Florida at 1 p.m. today for a spot in Saturday's first semifinal.
Down 39-19 at halftime to a Tigers team they'd beaten by nine during the regular season, Georgia didn't pull closer than 10 until the final six minutes. But Caldwell-Pope scored five straight points at that point to get the Bulldogs within four with 2:33 to go.
From then on, the sophomore wing missed his final three 3s.
"He's made a lot of them for us. He just missed that one," UGA coach Mark Fox of KCP's final miss. "But he competed and tried to lead his team back. We just can't wait that late in the game to start playing like that."
The biggest question around the Bulldogs program now centers on whether Caldwell-Pope has played his last game at UGA before taking his talent to the NBA.
"It's not even on my mind right now," he said. "I'm just trying to stay focused on what I need to do to finish school."