Georgia Hangs on Against South Carolina

If someone had told me at halftime of Saturday’s game between the Georgia Bulldogs (17-7; 6-4) and the South Carolina Gamecocks that the Cocks would have the ball and a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds, I would have suggested that they get their crystal ball checked for defects.

But such was the case, as Carolina came out of a timeout with 11.7 seconds left, trailing 59-56.

The Cocks tried to run a screen play for freshman Bruce Ellington, but Georgia‘s Trey Thompkins did a beautiful job of switching off the pick and blocking Ellington’s three-point attempt.  Gerald Robinson, Jr. secured the loose ball, got fouled and made a crucial free throw that put to rest a furious South Carolina comeback.

Saturday’s game was truly a tale of two halves, with Georgia owning the first, and South Carolina dominating the second.

In the first half, Georgia held South Carolina to just 9 points, a school record for lowest points in a half in SEC play.  Carolina shot horrendously in the first half – 14.3% from the floor and 0 for 12 on all of their three-point attempts.  However, the Dawgs deserve some credit for their defense, as well as their defensive rebounding (Georgia had a +14 rebounding margin over the Cocks in the before the break).

Bruce Ellington, South Carolina’s leading scorer, was 0 for 9 in the first half and finished the game with just 2 points – his lowest scoring output of the season.  Gerald Robinson turned in another superb defensive effort Saturday, and he has now shut down two of the best point guards in the conference (the other being Kentucky’s Brandon Knight).

After the break, Georgia extended the lead to 47-24 following a Trey Thompkins three-pointer with 11:11 remaining.  At this point, the game appeared to be over.

In the game’s final 10 minutes however, Georgia committed 6 turnovers and allowed the Gamecocks to clean-up on 6 second-chance points.  Georgia shot the ball better from the field (55%) and three-point line (66.7%) in the second half compared to the first (40% FG and 16.7% 3PT in first).  Had the Dawgs not been so careless with the ball in the closing quarter of the game, Bruce Ellington would have never been in position to tie it up.

Georgia finished the game with 17 turnovers to just 16 assists, marking the 9th time this season their turnovers have outnumbered their assists (a scary statistic).

Trey Thompkins led the Dawgs with 16 points and 9 rebounds, with 12 of his points coming after intermission.  It was nice to see Trey hit a three-pointer, his first since the Arkansas game two weeks ago.

Travis Leslie was the only other Bulldog to score in double-digits, finishing the game with 13 points (9 of which came in the first half).

And how about the play of freshman Marcus Thornton?  Marcus had his most productive game as a Bulldog yet, netting 7 points and 6 boards in just 12 minutes of play.  Thornton played aggressive on Saturday, particularly on the glass, where he snagged 5 offensive rebounds.

It was definitely a strange game, with Georgia cruising into the half with a 28-9 lead, only to let Carolina out score them 47-32 after the break.  But after all the dust settled in the Colonial Life Center, Georgia came out on top with the 60-56 win.

The victory over the Gamecocks marks the Dawgs’ third SEC road win of the season, and they are now 6-2 in true road games this year.  With only three away games remaining before season’s end, Georgia has now assured itself of a winning road record for the 2010-2011 season.  This shows a great level of maturity for Mark Fox’s team, and a winning road record is a wonderful “bullet” on any NCAA resume.

Georgia has now matched its SEC win total from last season, with six games left to play.

The AJC was a tad negative about Georgia’s win in Columbia on Saturday, stating that the Dawgs don’t look “NCAA Tournament-worthy”.

I tend to disagree.  Georgia is literally a Brian Williams (Tennessee) over-the-back call and an Erving Walker (Florida) missed three-pointer from being 8-2 in the SEC.

There are no style points in college basketball – winning is all that matters…which is what this UGA team is doing.

It was another crazy Saturday in the SEC East, with Vanderbilt upending Kentucky and Florida topping Tennessee.  Georgia now boasts a 6-4 conference record, putting them in a tie with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Vandy comes into Athens on Wednesday night for a big time showdown, with the winner securing sole possession of second place in the East.

With six conference game remaining, the Dawgs now have a legitimate chance of earning a bye in the first round of this year’s SEC Tournament.