Down by five and needing a bucket with less than nine minutes to play, Georgia got two close shots from Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide.
Neither went through the hoop, with South Carolina earning the ball back in transition.
And from there, South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell was found in transition wide open for a 3-pointer, which he launched and made to give the Gamecocks an eight-point lead. The fans on hand, part of a sellout at Colonial Life Arena, then watched the No. 19 Gamecocks go on to beat the Bulldogs 77-75.
Thornwell gave South Carolina a lift several times, hitting four 3-point buckets.
The game was tight for about the first 31 minutes before South Carolina (19-4, 9-1 SEC) gained control. Georgia (13-10, 4-6) matched the Gamecocks with a 38-38 deadlock at the break, and they were later tied at 51. From there, the Gamecocks went on an 8-0 run to put the Bulldogs on their heels.
Georgia did make it interesting late, cutting South Carolina’s lead down to 75-73 with 7.7 seconds left to play. Justin McKie then delivered two free throws at the end to put the game away. Georgia forward Mike Edwards added a late basket with 0.4 seconds left for the final score.
For Georgia, Maten and J.J. Frazier combined for 36 of Georgia’s 77 points.
Five who mattered
Maten: Maten was once again Georgia’s go-to scorer down low. The Bulldogs did a good job of getting him the ball whether South Carolina played man or zone. Maten finished with 18 points and four rebounds.
Frazier: Frazier scored 18 points and handed out five assists during his 36 minutes. Frazier’s best play of the game, and maybe the season, came on an assist to freshman guard Jordan Harris. Frazier drove to the hoop and dished a no-look pass to the perimeter. Harris then knocked down the 3-point jumper.
Thornwell: Thornwell hit a mini-spurt in the first half where he made three consecutive 3-pointers. In the moment, this kept Georgia from establishing a run, which it seemed capable of at the time. Thornwell ended the game with 18 points.
South Carolina guard Duane Notice: Notice was tough for Georgia to deal with behind the 3-point line. He hit four of his seven attempts and finished with 18 points.
South Carolina guard PJ Dozier: Dozier was a scoring machine, getting to the rim often. He ended with a game-high 21 points. Dozier also contributed three assists and three rebounds.
South Carolina’s 8-0 run with less than nine minutes to go was the first turn in the game. With less than four minutes to go, senior guard McKie drained a 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Gamecocks up nine. Those moments became too tough for Georgia to overcome.
Perimeter defense still an issue: Having to worry about South Carolina driving inside, Georgia surrendered a lot of looks from the outside. The Gamecocks made the Bulldogs pay by nailing 11 of their 24 3-point shot attempts. It’s a tough predicament for Georgia to be in when it has to rely on a zone defense throughout the game. When forced to play zone throughout the season, the Bulldogs have struggled. In addition, South Carolina was able to get a few 3-pointers up in transition. The Gamecocks entered the day 36.3 percent from the 3-point line and hit 45.8 of those perimeter shots Saturday.
Turnovers remain a problem: Georgia head coach Mark Fox has said all season that his team would be in a better position near the end of games if it could fix its turnover problem. It couldn’t get a grasp on that against South Carolina. The Bulldogs committed 15 turnovers, with quite a few of the unforced variety. After the game, Fox mentioned that the Bulldogs won’t win close games with that kind of turnover rate. Conversely, South Carolina only committed eight turnovers.
Closing in: Maten recorded four blocks, which put him closer to No. 4 all time at Georgia. He’s now tied with Dominique Wilkins with 142 career blocks.
Regular-season sweep: Last year, Georgia took two from South Carolina. This time, South Carolina took two from Georgia. The Gamecocks’ two-point victory over the Bulldogs added to their 67-61 win on Jan. 4.
Rotation down to eight: Georgia has gone 11 or 12 deep at times this season. Against South Carolina, the Bulldogs played nine with only eight seeing significant minutes. Maten, Frazier, Harris, Edwards, Ogbeide, Turtle Jackson, Juwan Parker and Pape Diatta all saw double-digit minutes.
They said it
Fox on the loss: “We felt like it would be a typical hard-fought game. Offensively, we shoot nearly 50 percent, but we gave up too many second-chance points. I thought that was the key to the game, the second-chance baskets in the second half. Give their team credit, they got a good basketball team. It was a hard-fought game and we came up a play short.”
Frazier on South Carolina’s 3-point shooting performance: “When they’re shooting the ball like that around them, it’s hard because you want to guard the 3-point line. You have to pick your poison. You’ve got to give them credit. They made great, hard drives and made tough finishes. But they’ve been doing that all year.”
Thornwell on defeating Georgia twice after losing two of three meetings last year: “It means a lot. That’s the thing, we feel they kept us out of the (2016 NCAA) Tournament. It kind of killed our season.”
Georgia hosts Florida at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.