When these two teams locked up in Athens over two weeks ago, the Dawgs were trailing 27-5 with a little over 6 minutes left in the first half. In that game, UGA didn’t even look like they deserved to be on the same floor as South Carolina.
On Wednesday night in Columbia, the Dawgs almost pulled off their 3rd straight win in as many games despite playing the final 3 minutes of overtime without 3 starters: Rayshaun Hammonds, Toumani Camara and Jordan Harris. Georgia had a chance to tie the game with 4 seconds left, but the referees chose to award Maik Kotsar a charge instead of a block on Sahvir Wheeler’s final drive.
Here are some quick thoughts on tonight’s game:
Ant Man put on a show
Tonight’s game was really the first time that Edwards absolutely took over in an SEC game. No matter who Frank Martin put on the freshman, he found a way around. Carolina didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of Edwards, and he ended up with 36 points to go along with 7 boards.
Edwards’s numbers were even more impressive considering how much attention he was garnering. USC played primarily man defense the entire night, and whoever was on the Ant Man typically denied him the ball as soon as he crossed half court. Edwards ended up bringing the ball up himself in the point guard role on a number of possessions just so he could be assured of a touch. When the freshman drove, Carolina readily had one to two defenders shading over to double- and triple-team him.
This was definitely a performance in which it was obvious which player on the court was destined for the NBA in the immediate future.
UGA’s defense was virtually nonexistent
Thank goodness Tom Crean’s team found a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball because the Dawgs provided little resistance on the defensive end. I thought after the subpar effort at Vandy last weekend, Georgia would return to a form that more resembled how they played against Auburn a week ago. That just wasn’t the case.
Whether the Dawgs were in man or zone, they did not communicate effectively enough to keep the Gamecocks from scoring around the rim. Rotations were either too slow to react or just didn’t happen. At halftime, Carolina had already dunked the ball 4 times to go along with 10 layups. By the time the final horn sounded, USC had punished Georgia for 54 points in the paint as they shot 66% on two-pointers. Alonzo Frink, who entered this contest netting a meager 4.3 a night, looked like Shaquille O’Neal on Wednesday as he torched UGA for a career-high 22 points.
As I mentioned, Hammonds fouled out and so did Camara. Georgia’s defense continues to be the Achilles Heel of this squad, and that’s primarily because this team does not have a true big man.
There isn’t a ton of solace in moral victories, but when your team is 4-11 in conference play, sometimes you have to take what you can get. Jordan Harris logged just 10 minutes last night before eventually fouling out. Sahvir Wheeler played only 6 minutes after the break and Hammonds played 9; both guys were in foul trouble for the final 20 minutes of regulation. Yet UGA still had a chance to win in OT.
Georgia trailed 59-52 with over 12 minutes remaining after a 9-2 Gamecock run in the second half. But just like in the game against Vandy, the Dawgs didn’t wilt; instead, they responded with a 13-4 run of their own that saw UGA recapture the lead 65-63 following a pair of free throws from Edwards. Georgia recently started a trend of getting themselves back into games and overcoming deficits, on the road nonetheless.
It’s going to be difficult for UGA to climb out of that Wednesday slot of the SEC tournament considering they trail Arkansas by 2 games with just 3 games remaining. However, the way this team has been playing away from home gives some hope to the possibility that they could win several games on a neutral court in Nashville, Tennessee.
At 14-14, Georgia is on the outer parts of the NIT bubble and going to need a strong finish to work their way into the bracket.