Georgia Coach Mark Fox has watched enough senior-day games to know what to expect.
"Oftentimes on senior day, the underclassmen have to win the game," Fox said. "Some seniors are terrible. They are so emotional because it is such a privilege to play here. Some of them are terrific.
"Gerald (Robinson) was both today."
Robinson scored 23 points to lead Georgia to a 67-55 win over South Carolina Saturday in the regular season finale for both teams.
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Georgia (14-16, 5-11 Southeastern Conference) failed to score in the first 7:43 of the game as South Carolina bolted to a 10-0 lead.
"Gerald started the game in somewhat of a funk," said Fox. "We had timeout, and I chewed on him. I don't chew on him very often, but I chewed on him. Gerald really responded, and he did play like a senior after that."
Malik Cooke led the Gamecocks (10-20, 2-14) with 17 points, and Bruce Ellington chipped in 10 points.
Fox started all four seniors, including career subs Connor Nolte and Matt Bucklin. That rare lineup plus the residual effect of playing at No. 1 Kentucky at 9 p.m. Thursday night contributed to the Bulldogs' sluggish start.
"We started a lineup today with our seniors that until yesterday had never been practiced together," said Fox. "That group had never been on the floor in those roles and it showed.
"We got off to a poor start," continued Fox. "I thought we were a little bit emotionally and mentally fatigued from Thursday night and the quick turnaround. But that would not be fair to South Carolina to blame our start on that. I thought their defense was better than out offense to start the game."
Darrin Horn, the Gamecocks head coach, agreed with that assessment.
"Early on we were moving the basketball well," said Horn. "We were doing a good job defensively. The key was where they busted loose for a few threes, especially Robinson. He did for them what you expect a senior to do on senior day."
"We did get off to a very slow start," said Robinson. "But today was a very emotional day for everybody."
"It was definitely emotional," said point guard Dustin Ware, the fourth senior. "I think at one point I went through like every year, thinking about what had happened."
South Carolina's Cooke accounted for seven of the Gamecocks' first 10 points. The Bulldogs appeared headed for another low-scoring first half. Sixteen times this season already Georgia had scored fewer than 30 points in the first half, including three games with fewer than 20 points.
Georgia finally broke through when Robinson got a steal and a layup with 12:17 to go in the half. That started a 6-0 run, but the Gamecocks pushed their lead back to 16-6 on two layups in 12 seconds by Ellington.
But the Bulldogs heated up in the last six minutes of the half, hitting five straight 3-point baskets during a 24-7 run that put the Bulldogs up 30-23 at halftime. Robinson, who closed out his Stegeman Coliseum career, hit three of those treys.
South Carolina had its own scoring drought in the second half, going 7:37 between field goals, though the Gamecocks did make four free throws during that stretch. Cooke scored on a short jumper with 15:09 to play to cut the gap to 35-33. The Gamecocks did not score another field goal until 7:25 remained with Cooke hitting a 3-pointer that made it 49-40.
Georgia's biggest lead was 49-35 with 8:15 left when Donte Williams hit two free throws. A 3-pointer by Brian Richardson pulled the Gamecocks within 57-50 with 2:58 to go, but South Carolina could get no closer down the stretch.
Georgia hit 10 straight free throws over the last 4:05. For the game, Georgia hit a season-high 23 field goals. Entering the game, Georgia was 11th in the SEC in free throws made this year. Only South Carolina had made fewer.
"We have made more baskets in league play than our opponents," said Fox. "We have had fewer turnovers than our opponents. We have won a lot of statistical categories all year long in league play, but the one we had not won was at the free throw line, largely because we are physically just a little bit immature up front.
"Today that was key for us," Fox said. "We wanted to drive the ball and attack their switching defense with some plays at the rim."
The Bulldogs finished the regular season in 11th place in the standings and will play the SEC's sixth-place finisher Thursday at 10 p.m. in New Orleans.
South Carolina finished last in the 12-team league and will draw the fifth place team at 3:30 Thursday.
SOUTH CAROLINA (10-20)
Gill 4-8 0-0 8, Cooke 6-12 2-2 17, Ellington 4-12 2-2 10, Harris 1-4 1-2 3, Leonard 2-7 1-2 7, Williams 0-2 0-0 0, Richardson 1-3 3-4 6, Smith 0-1 2-2 2, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Slawson 0-0 1-2 1, Geathers 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 18-49 13-18 55.
Ware 0-4 6-6 6, Bucklin 0-1 2-2 2, D. Williams 0-2 6-10 6, Nolte 0-1 0-0 0, Robinson 8-13 3-5 23, Caldwell-Pope 3-7 1-2 8, Thornton 3-6 1-2 7, V. Williams 1-1 0-0 2, Brantley 1-5 2-2 5, Florveus 1-1 0-2 2, Djurisic 2-9 2-3 6. Totals 19-50 23-34 67.
Halftime: Georgia 30-23. 3-Point Goals: South Carolina 6-20 (Cooke 3-4, Leonard 2-7, Richardson 1-2, Williams 0-1, Smith 0-1, Ellington 0-5), Georgia 6-18 (Robinson 4-6, Caldwell-Pope 1-3, Brantley 1-5, Nolte 0-1, Djurisic 0-1, Ware 0-2). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: South Carolina 34 (Harris 9), Georgia 38 (Djurisic 10). Assists: South Carolina 7 (Ellington 4), Georgia 12 (Ware 4). Total Fouls: South Carolina 24, Georgia 13. Attendance: 8,336.