For a brief moment the Georgia Bulldogs looked poised to claim its first lead of the second half after Yante Maten buried a three-pointer from the top of the key with only 57 seconds remaining. Trailing South Carolina 62-61, the Dawgs were just one mere stop from wresting away the advantage from the visiting Gamecocks. But as luck would have it, Sindarius Thornwell, who had just returned from a six-game suspension, would score on a tip-in from his own miss on the ensuing possession, putting his team back up by 3. J.J. Frazier turned the ball over the next time down the court and then fouled Hassani Gravett immediately. Gravett made only one of two from the line, but Frazier forced an awkward three that caromed off the rim, and UGA would go on to lose 67-61.
The final minute of this game exemplified the major issues that plagued this Georgia team throughout the night: poor defense, turnovers and inconsistent offense. The Dawgs tried to play USC in man defense for much of this game, but I’m not sure that they had the personnel for that strategy to work. Coach Mark Fox doesn’t have the perimeter players to deal with Thornwell or fellow guard P.J. Dozier. Both of these guys relentlessly drove the ball to the paint, where Frank Martin’s team notched 38 of its points (to UGA’s 19). Dozier led all scores with 24 points to go along with 7 rebounds, and Thornwell recorded a double-double, scoring 19 points and snagging 11 rebounds.
Georgia didn’t really have it together on offense tonight either. The Dawgs made just 36% from the floor and under 31% from beyond the arc. Coach Fox’s team played incredibly sloppy in this one, turning the ball over 16 times, which led to 18 Gamecock points. UGA began the second half with one of its infamous scoring droughts, netting just 5 points in over 7 minutes of play. The Dawgs only trailed Carolina 36-34 at the break, but following a Chris Silva Jumper with 12:51 left they found themselves down 48-39. The free throw line, where UGA connected on 23 of 30 attempts, was the lone bright spot for Georgia, and honestly it kept them in the game down the stretch.
The Dawgs continued to pound the ball inside to Yante Maten, and despite facing multiple double-teams, he kept getting himself to the line. Maten made 9 of his 13 free throw attempts, though he only shot 33% from the floor. Yante did record another double-double as he pulled in a team-high 10 rebounds, but he never really got into an offensive rhythm as he constantly found himself surrounded by Gamecock bigs whenever he touched the ball inside. All this pressure forced Georgia’s leading scorer into 6 turnovers.
Unfortunately, Maten wasn’t the only Dawg to hand the ball over 6 times. Frazier committed 6 as well and never really got going on offense himself. Much like Maten, J.J. collected the majority of his points from the charity stripe, where he sunk 9 of 10 attempts. But Frazier’s efficiency from the field was far worse as he connected on just 30% from the floor and only 1 of his 6 perimeter shots.
The only other UGA player to finish in double-figures was Juwan Parker, who netted 12 points to go along with his 6 rebounds.
This loss was a tough one for Coach Fox’s team for several reasons. One, it totally sucks the air out of any of the mojo that the Dawgs might have been feeling after that big road win at Auburn last week. Two, Georgia still hasn’t recorded a solid RPI win. South Carolina’s RPI was 54 coming into the game, and it would have been UGA’s highest to date had they pulled it off. Finally, Georgia blew a solid opportunity to begin SEC play at 3-0 with lowly Missouri coming into town this Saturday. However, now that that’s out the window, the Dawgs will be doing their best to get back above .500 in conference play.