NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Georgia was in cruise control for about 30 minutes of Thursday evening’s 79-69 victory over Mississippi State.
Then, with Georgia holding a 16-point lead, Mississippi State hit Georgia with a full-court press that became nearly impossible to penetrate. Not too many teams have pressed Georgia this year. But each time Georgia’s faced one, it’s been able to break through without much of a problem.
This time, Mississippi State (14-17) fronted the guards and did a good job of denying the entry pass.
"We just couldn’t get organized quick enough," senior guard Kenny Gaines said. "It threw us off. You just have to give them credit for playing great defense. They did what a press is supposed to do. They got turnovers and made shots off of it."
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Mississippi State’s press wasn’t anything Georgia head coach Mark Fox didn’t expect. The problem that resulted in a lot of frustration for head coach Mark Fox was that Georgia did a poor job against the press during Tuesday’s practice in Nashville.
"We were just as bad against the press as we were in practice on Tuesday," Fox said. "We lost our minds. We just made the most simple mistakes of all time and just lost our minds. Thankfully, we had a lead because, with the limited timeouts this year, I was going to let us struggle for a minute before I burned all my timeouts."
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin was in attendance scouting the game, so you can bet he’ll implement some of the press tactics Mississippi State used if the game calls for it.
Georgia (18-12) knows it has to do a better job beating the pressure if it’s going to advance to the semifinals.
"We didn’t handle that well," senior guard Charles Mann said. "That’s one area in which we need to clean up for the next game."
LATEST ON CARRERA
There’s a good chance South Carolina senior forward Michael Carrera will not suit up for the third game between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks (24-7).
Carrera, South Carolina’s best player who is averaging 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, is dealing with a hip injury that kept him out of the regular-season finale against Arkansas. Carrera is a key to South Carolina’s defensive intensity and would be sorely missed in a game of this magnitude.
Via 247Sports.com, Martin said on his radio show that he is not optimistic that Carrera will play.
In Georgia's 74-72 win over South Carolina on March 3, Carrera had a poor performance as he went 5-of-21 shooting from the field while sinking only 1 of 10 3-point attempts. With Carrera out against Arkansas, Sindarius Thornwell stepped up and scored 22 points in a 76-61 victory.
If Carrera can’t go Friday night, Thornwell will be the player Georgia will likely focus on stopping on the offensive end.
GOING FOR THREE IN ONE SEASON
Georgia will be attempting to beat South Carolina for the third time this year, which it hasn’t done to any team since the 1983-84 season.
The last team Georgia was able to beat three times in a year was Mississippi State. As everyone knows, it’s extremely tough to beat one team three times in a season. This year’s SEC Tournament is a great example of that, with Tennessee beating Vanderbilt in the teams’ third meeting on Thursday.
Last year, the roles were reversed between Georgia and South Carolina. The two teams met in the SEC Tournament with the Gamecocks winning the first two games in the regular season. Georgia then won the postseason matchup, which essentially secured its NCAA Tournament bid.