A year ago the Georgia Bulldogs (13-10; 4-6) beat the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-4; 9-1) three times and knocked them out of contention for an NCAA tournament berth. Today, South Carolina returned the favor, besting the Dawgs 77-75 at the Columbia Life Center on Saturday afternoon. Any more talk of this Georgia team going to the Big Dance should be put on hold until UGA either wins 6 of its final 8 games, or a tornado is spotted approaching Nashville in early march for the SEC tournament.
Ultimately, Georgia was undone by one of its infamous offensive scoring droughts that have become a staple of Mark Fox’s teams over the past several seasons. Yante Maten scored a bucket to make it 51-50 Carolina with 11:23 remaining in the game, only to see his team go the next eight and a half minutes without a field goal. Juwan Parker hit a jumper with 2:50 left to snap the spell, but by then the Dawgs were still trailing 67-60. Frank Martin put his team into a zone defense during this brutal stretch, and Georgia struggled to adjust when they were no longer able to rely on the J.J. Frazier and Maten two-man game.
The Dawgs also struggled to protect the ball today as they turned it over 15 times with Frazier and Parker leading the way with 5 apiece. Granted, South Carolina is probably the best defensive team in the conference as they lead the SEC in defensive scoring (63), field goal percentage (39%) and three-point percentage (25%), but for UGA’s offense to completely stall over the final quarter of the game is inexcusable.
Defensively, the Bulldogs failed to close out effectively on the Gamecocks on the perimeter, where South Carolina connected on 11 of 24 from beyond the arc. The Dawgs once again began the game trying to play Carolina in man defense, and Sindarious Thornwell made them pay as he hit 3 three-pointers in less than 8 minutes to put his team up 14-11. In Athens last month, Georgia struggled to defend Thornwell and P.J. Dozier one-on-one due to their superior size over the UGA backcourt. Today, it wasn’t much different as Dozier and Thornwell torched Georgia for 21 and 18, respectively. When Georgia switched to its 2-3 match-up zone they were able to cover the perimeter better, but SC obviously still got theirs from the outside off of transition plays and offensive rebounds.
Georgia’s abysmal second half was a complete contrast to its first twenty minutes of play. Prior to the intermission, UGA’s offense was deliberate, pounding the ball inside to Maten, who was able to score 10 points and get both Carolina bigs Silva and Kotar in foul trouble with 2 each. However, all of that stopped following the intermission as Yante primarily saw double-teams with every touch and it became harder and harder for the guards to dump the ball inside.
The Dawgs were led by Maten and Frazier, who scored 18 apiece.
Georgia has now lost its last 4 SEC contests, and the going isn’t going to get anything but tougher heading into next week when UGA hosts #24 Florida on Tuesday night in Athens before heading to Knoxville next Saturday to take on Tennessee.