It’s very hard to win without points.
A nearly 10-minute drought without a field goal to start the second half sent South Carolina to a 73-56 loss to Georgia on Saturday, disappointing a festive crowd and placing a dark cloud over the final stretch of the season.
The Gamecocks’ best chance to win among their final five games was against the Bulldogs since the game was at home and the final four games are not favorable. When walk-on Brian Steele canned his second 3-pointer of the first half to produce a 34-all tie at halftime, the game was there to be won.
But the Gamecocks (10-17, 3-11 SEC) scored three points in the first half of the second period. The looks and chances were there, but the ball rolled around or off an unforgiving rim and into the waiting hands of a Georgia defender. USC shot 5-of-31 (16.1 percent) from the field in the second half.
Georgia (15-11, 9-5) took off on a 15-1 run, and while USC fought back, the deficit was too great.
“Usually when droughts like that happen, the only thing you can do is get stops on defense,” Brenton Williams said. “In the second half, we got every look where we were making most of them in the first half, but they weren’t going down. That’s just something we’ve got to get better at.”
Georgia’s rebounding superiority gave it second chance after second chance, and the game quickly deteriorated. By the time coach Frank Martin was given a technical for yelling at an official halfway through the period, USC was too far gone.
“I felt real good at halftime,” Martin said. “I thought we were in a good place. Not like we came out and just laid down. The ball wouldn’t go in.”
The Gamecocks have chances to win going forward. Their final two road games are at Auburn (4-9 SEC going into Saturday) and Mississippi State (3-10, with eight straight losses). But USC is winless in SEC road games this season and 5-35 the past five seasons.
The Gamecocks’ final two home games are hosting Kentucky and Florida, the top two teams in the league. USC needs one win to match last season’s SEC win total but needs four wins to match last season’s overall win total.
They won’t get there with another 22-point second-half effort or being physically manhandled the way they were against Georgia. The Bulldogs muscled their way to 40 rebounds (12 offensive) and used their length to deny any chance of USC penetrating the paint. The Gamecocks accepted it early, Williams raining three 3-pointers over the packed-in D, but that ended when he sat down with two early fouls.
Sindarius Thornwell scored 11 of his 18 points in the first half and USC fought to tie the game at halftime, but the second-half malaise handed the game to Georgia. Martin picked up his fifth technical in seven years as a coach for complaining about a foul, but it did little to fire up a USC team that didn’t match up with Georgia’s strength.
“Their size at all five spots makes it difficult for our basketball team,” Martin said. “We have to start driving the ball, and we just couldn’t make any shots in the second half. Missing all those shots kind of deflated us from the energy that we have to have to be a good defensive team.”
USC got 34 points from Williams and Thornwell and eight from Steele. Michael Carrera had 12 rebounds, seven on offense, when nobody else had more than three. It wasn’t enough as USC had no big-man presence.
“They started to clamp it in the paint pretty good, they started to clog it,” Williams said. “Even though they collapsed on Sindarius, the kicks were there that Steele and I were making in the first half. We couldn’t get them to go in the second half.”
“We can’t get any of those other bigs to make a layup or get a rebound,” Martin said. “We have no post-up. We’re missing shots, so go get an offensive rebound. This is not volleyball. Stop tipping the ball. Grab it.”
Note: Carrera twice hit the deck and play was stopped each time. The first was when he landed on his hip, which he had problems with all of last year, but he returned to the game. The second appeared to be a knock to the head when he took a charge from Nemanja Djurisic late in the second half. He walked to the locker room and returned to the bench in the final minute.
Thornton 4-6 3-3 12, Mann 1-10 5-8 7, Gaines 9-14 4-5 27, Williams 1-3 0-1 2, Morris 4-9 4-8 12, Parker 1-4 3-4 5, Dixon 0-0 0-0 0, Echols 0-0 0-0 0, Forte 0-0 0-0 0, Young 0-0 0-0 0, Kessler 0-0 0-0 0, Geno 0-0 0-0 0, Frazier 1-3 0-0 3, Cannon 0-0 0-0 0, Djurisic 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 23-52 19-29 73.
SOUTH CAROLINA (10-17)
Thornwell 4-15 10-12 18, Williams 5-16 2-2 16, Notice 0-5 4-6 4, Carrera 1-5 1-2 3, Kacinas 1-4 0-0 2, Shaw 1-3 0-0 3, Chatkevicius 1-1 0-0 2, Henry 0-1 0-0 0, Steele 2-7 2-2 8. Totals 15-57 19-24 56.
Halftime_Tied 34-34. 3-Point Goals_Georgia 8-16 (Gaines 5-9, Djurisic 1-1, Thornton 1-1, Frazier 1-3, Mann 0-1, Morris 0-1), South Carolina 7-20 (Williams 4-9, Steele 2-5, Shaw 1-3, Notice 0-1, Thornwell 0-2). Fouled Out_Chatkevicius. Rebounds_Georgia 40 (Thornton 10), South Carolina 38 (Carrera 12). Assists_Georgia 9 (Frazier 3), South Carolina 8 (Thornwell 5). Total Fouls_Georgia 22, South Carolina 20. Technical_South Carolina Bench. A_NA.