This time, Georgia on winning side of escape

semerson@macon.comFebruary 23, 2013 

ATHENS -- The odd ending to regulation had Georgia’s head coach invoking the 1972 Olympics. The big shot by Georgia’s star had the Bulldogs players saying the word “relief” a lot.

The way it turned out saved the Bulldogs’ chances of having a decent conference record, rather than suffering another disastrous home loss.

In the end, Georgia’s 62-54 overtime win over South Carolina on Saturday was notable because of the clutch shot Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit with 8.9 seconds left in regulation. That 3-pointer tied the game and -- after a weird sequence in which South Carolina got two chances to win -- resulted in overtime.

Caldwell-Pope, the SEC’s second-leading scorer, had struggled for much of the game, but when it mattered most he once again came up big.

“I haven’t had a game-winner here yet,” he said. “But I think that’s probably the best one; to take us into overtime, it’s probably the best one I’ve had here so far.”

Georgia (13-14 overall, 7-7 SEC) then ran away with the game in overtime. It’s a good thing too because a loss to South Carolina (13-14, 3-11) would have been a major step back for the Bulldogs, who have put things together after a 1-4 start in SEC play.

Caldwell-Pope’s shot caused the escape. He took the ball inbounds after two Gamecocks free throws, dribbled downcourt, handed off to Charles Mann, rolled off a screen and then got the ball back from Mann. Then Caldwell-Pope rose and drained it.

“They ran that perfectly,” head coach Mark Fox said of the play, which the team practices almost every day. “They did exactly, from baseline to the shot, they did it perfectly.”

“It was great. A stress reliever,” said Mann, who missed two free throws with 19 seconds left that would have given Georgia a one-point lead. “Since my two free throws (missed), he pretty much gave us another life. We just had to win the game in overtime.”

And the Bulldogs did, fairly easily.

But the story of the game could have been a curious ruling the officials made after Caldwell-Pope’s shot, which tied it with 8.9 seconds left. The clock ran before South Carolina inbounded the ball, which officials didn’t notice until after South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington missed a 3 at the buzzer.

The officials then went to the video review, as both teams huddled up, figuring there would be overtime. After a lengthy review, the officials decided to put 4.5 seconds back on the clock and give South Carolina the ball on its own baseline -- 94 feet away from the basket at which it needed to score.

Again the Gamecocks couldn’t score, with Ellington’s long heave blocked by Georgia’s Charles Mann.

Referee Anthony Jordan, the crew chief, provided an explanation through an official statement, which read, “With 8.9 seconds left, the clock was erroneously started during a deadball situation. The difference from 8.9 seconds, when the basket was scored, and the time the South Carolina player received the ball was 4.5 seconds. By rule, it was clearly a correctable-error situation. We put the ball back in play, giving South Carolina the 4.5 seconds it had lost when the clock erroneously ran. The ball was placed on the baseline at the point closest to where he initially received the ball.”

That still didn’t quite clear everything up. It essentially appeared that the officials were splitting the difference -- giving South Carolina the ball again to make up for the clock running early but the furthest distance from the basket.

After the game, Fox appeared confused -- although not angry -- with what the officials did.

“I thought it was the ’72 Olympics all over again,” Fox said, harkening back to the infamous gold medal game in which the Soviet Union got three chances at the buzzer to beat the U.S. “Yeah I don’t know. Looking back, it made sense to me at the time. Now, hell, I don’t know.”

In the end, it didn’t have an effect on the final score. In overtime, South Carolina immediately lost two starters to fouls, and Nemanja Djurisic hit a huge 3-pointer to put Georgia up seven with 1:56 left.

It was yet another woeful offensive game, especially in a horrid first half. The teams combined to go 12-for-56 from the floor, and neither team made a 3-pointer. Caldwell-Pope was scoreless in the first half.

The final score was much closer than it arguably should have been for Georgia, which won comfortably when the teams met at South Carolina. But coming off two final-second road losses, the Bulldogs were happy to escape on the right end of a close one.

“It was a great win. The last two games have been rough. It was hard for us to sleep,” Mann said.

“It jump starts us,” freshman forward Brandon Morris said. “It was definitely a pain losing in the last two minutes the last couple games, and we were able to buckle down and get this win. It was the first step for us.”

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