NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Twice was hard enough. Beating South Carolina a third time? That’s going to be a difficult task for Georgia.
After beating Mississippi State 79-69 on Thursday, the sixth-seeded Bulldogs will get the third-seeded Gamecocks in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday. Both teams are familiar with one another, considering they played their second game against each other a week ago.
Georgia defeated South Carolina 74-72 on the road, which followed a 69-56 home win over the Gamecocks on Feb. 2. Given the physical brand of basketball South Carolina plays with, Georgia knows it will be a challenge to get yet another victory.
"A team that’s beaten twice, they have a bigger edge to them," sophomore forward Yante Maten said. "They’re not going to let you beat them again. We got to expect the punch, put up our defense and punch back."
The roles were reversed a year ago, with South Carolina claiming two regular-season wins over Georgia. But the Bulldogs got the third one in a much-needed SEC Tournament game that ultimately got them in the big dance.
South Carolina figures to be in the NCAA Tournament, although a loss could give the selection committee a second thought. Therefore, the Gamecocks have every reason to avenge the two losses Georgia gave them.
"It’s tough to beat South Carolina any time," Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. "As I told coach (Frank) Martin (Thursday) morning, they’re a tournament team. He’s comfortably in the field. He’s had a great year. They have a terrific team and it’s hard to beat them any time, not to mention trying to do it a third time. But that’s the challenge we’re going to have to face."
In the first meeting, Georgia was able to pull away in the second half and win comfortably. In the second meeting, the Bulldogs rallied from a five-point deficit in the second half before holding on to a two-point win.
But as Thursday’s Tennessee-Vanderbilt game showed, it’s extremely tough to beat a team three times. Georgia knows not to fall back on the success it had in its two previous games against South Carolina.
"It makes it that much harder," senior guard Kenny Gaines said. "They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder, seeing we won at their place and beat them on their senior night. We know they’re gonna come out with all guns firing. We have to do everything that correlates to winning."