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March 11, 2016

Mark Fox

Kenny Gaines

Yante Maten

Nashville, Tennessee

Georgia - 65, South Carolina - 64

THE MODERATOR: Ready to begin with Georgia.

COACH FOX: Certainly, a very hard fought game versus a terrific South Carolina team, a team playing without one of their best players, a team, I think, that belongs in the NCAA Tournament and should hopefully be comfortably in. But certainly, it was a battle.

We didn't start the game well. Credit South Carolina's defense for that. And they had us kind of rattled, but we battled back.

You know, I showed our team a movie the first day of school, a movie called Unbroken, and that's why I think our team has been very resilient. We're able to keep fighting and driving forward. That resiliency in spirit tonight carried us to victory.

Q. I guess for both players. What can you say about J.J. in that final minute?
YANTE MATEN: J.J. is an outstanding player. It's heart over height definitely in that case. He told me, when he got back to the locker room, he said he knew what he was going to do, and you know, credit J.J. for being a great defender as well as an offensive player.

KENNY GAINES: I mean, J.J.'s just a great player. As Yante said, he plays with so much passion and intensity, it kind of trickles down to the rest of us. For him to be out there to lead us tonight, it just made everybody else's job easier.

Q. Kenny, what was it like for you in the first half to pick up those two early fouls? And how do you feel like you were able to manage the rest of the game and help your team get this win?
KENNY GAINES: It was a little frustrating, of course. I think I got two fouls within the first two minutes. So I just wanted to -- I'm older, so it's a little bit easier to manage my mind.

But I just wanted to stay within the rhythm of the game whenever Coach sent me back in and do whatever we needed to win.

Q. There were a couple games earlier in SEC play this year -- the Ole Miss game at their place, the Florida game where you guys had late leads and couldn't close it out. What does it really say about this team now that you're able to, not just close games out when you're ahead, but come from behind and win them at the end?
YANTE MATEN: It just shows we have heart and determination. We were down, and it seemed like the flow of the game was for them. So it took heart, and we battled back, and it means a lot that we could do something like that.

KENNY GAINES: I feel like it just shows the maturity of our team. In some of those earlier close games, we weren't able to close them out, but you know, we learned from our mistakes, and we grew as a team and figured out what we need to do down the stretch, and we did it.

Q. This is for both players. What was said at halftime to kind of get the offense back on track?
YANTE MATEN: Finish plays. Simple as that.

KENNY GAINES: Ditto. Try to get out in transition. Try to get some easy points. But run our offense with a little bit more authority. Like Yante said, just finish plays.

Q. Just confirming, because it looked like J.J. missed the second free throw on purpose. What, from your vantage point, the strategy behind that move?
COACH FOX: We waited until after the first free throw when we had a lead, two seconds to go. A three beats you whether way if you're up two or up one. And you put them in position to rebound when the clock starts, as soon as they touch the ball, and we're matched up to cover them. So we did miss the second one on purpose. You were correct.

Q. Have you ever coached a player who is as determined as J.J. was there at the end, battling through an injury and just refusing to really let Georgia lose?
COACH FOX: This is no disrespect to J.J., but yes, I've coached some great kids. And he's certainly tied for first with a lot of guys, as far as great kids.

Q. Coach, when your team is struggling to find its rhythm for as long as it did today, how do you as a coach keep them focused and not let that stuff get in their heads and just allow it to completely come apart?
COACH FOX: There was a time-out at the first part of the second half, and it might have been the first media time-out, and I showed them. We just had three shots at the basket and didn't make them and we missed a free throw. If you look at the scoreboard, it's 38-30. We'd be down one just if we'd finished the layups and free throws. I said we just got to keep grinding. Our rhythm will come, and eventually it did to a degree.

Q. As J.J.'s dribbling there, before he hits that floater, do you remember what you're thinking? Do you think, let J.J. shoot that? Or were you worried that he was going to throw up a bad shot?
COACH FOX: No. I've got all the faith in the world in J.J. I had a time-out and didn't even use it. I wanted the ball in his hands. We had a plan in place of what to do, and he made a big time play.

Q. I think I asked you this after you beat South Carolina last week. Is this team starting to look more and more like an NCAA Tournament team? Five straight wins, a couple of wins over South Carolina?
COACH FOX: I think what I will say about the NCAA Tournament is that there's a lot of teams who have not -- didn't challenge themselves with a schedule, and I think our non-conference strength of schedule is in the top five in America. And there's a lot of teams across the country who have played one-third of their schedule versus teams outside of the top 200. We could have easily said, okay, we want to go rack up some wins and play a bunch of cupcakes, but we didn't do that.

We've now won, what, 12 SEC games, I think. Ten in the regular season and a couple here in the Tournament. And I got dear friends at some of those other places, but if this win doesn't put us squarely in the conversation or in the Tournament with 19 wins and the schedule we played, what would do it? I don't know. We couldn't play a harder schedule.

So I think that we deserve some very, very serious consideration for the NCAA Tournament, and I know the selection committee will do their due diligence.

Q. Coach, J.J. left the floor for just a minute, went off with some trainers, came right back. Can you tell us what was going on with his leg?
COACH FOX: He just had, I think, a little tweak in his ankle. I think they retaped his ankle at the half. So I don't really know the details of it yet. I know they retaped him at halftime, so that be would the best I could give you.

Q. Coach, can you talk about Mike Edwards' effort tonight? Had a huge block at the end, played really well down the stretch.
COACH FOX: He did play well down the stretch. He made a couple plays in the first half that almost got him put in a water cooler. He just made some freshman errors, and he learned from it. Mike is -- and Derek both made some errors tonight that were costly, but they're freshmen, and they learn from it. And Mike learned from it within the game and made some really good plays defensively down the stretch, some really good plays.

Q. Mark, Kenny said about J.J. that it's heart over height. I'm wondering how that sounds to you. What does that mean to you when you hear that?
COACH FOX: Well, I think the most important quality in an athlete is their competitive nature, and J.J.'s extremely competitive. A lot of guys have unbelievable ability, but when the game's on the line or they're keeping score and the game's close, they don't get better. J.J. gets better because he has a great competitive nature.

So if that's his heart, then I would agree with that.

Q. Mark, now the challenge tomorrow about facing a Kentucky team that showed today why they're one of the best teams in the country.
COACH FOX: Oh, Kentucky won? They're great. Nothing like playing a road game. They got a team that can beat you in a million ways. Their defense alone can win for them. They got offensive guys that are -- they've got an unbelievable backcourt. Their front line guys keep getting better and better and better. Now that kid's healthy off the ankle injury.

I mean, it's a monumental challenge. Two games in under 24 hours. We obviously didn't think one second about it until this game ended. So we'll have to come up with something because they whipped us pretty good the first time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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