South Carolina didn’t win 19 games by being a dominant offensive team. With no real take-over player, the No. 25 Gamecocks have scored by driving the lane and getting to the free-throw line.
That requires energy, which USC inexplicably didn’t have in a 69-56 loss at Georgia on Tuesday.
“We didn’t box out, we didn’t rebound, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” junior Sindarius Thornwell said. “We came out lazy and chillin’, and it got us beat.”
USC didn’t challenge the Bulldogs’ zone defense, which has been the key to beating Georgia this year. Big man Yante Maten is a game-changer, but has been prone to foul trouble; making the strategy to drive at him, get him out of the game and it’s off to the races.
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The Gamecocks (19-3, 6-3 SEC) never got out of the block. They settled for badly missed 3-pointers and didn’t challenge the Bulldogs in the paint. Only Michael Carrera played a complete game, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out on a technical.
The Gamecocks were 18-for-57 (31.6 percent) from the field. Thornwell reverted to the struggling shooter of the past few games, scoring 18 points but going 5-for-15, and Duane Notice wasn’t on speaking terms with his jumper (2 of 8).
USC handed Georgia second chances like they were Halloween candy, and J.J. Frazier made them count. The man who thrust the dagger in the Gamecocks’ SEC tournament hopes last year did it one more time, acing two 3-pointers after the Gamecocks had cut the game to four points late in the second half.
The Bulldogs (12-8, 5-4) weren’t outstanding offensively but they didn’t have to be with the Gamecocks shooting so poorly. While the numbers were remarkably even – 22 in the paint for each team, 16 Georgia second-chance points to 12 for USC – Georgia dominated the game.
“Once again, get out-rebounded, get out-shot at the free-throw line … hard for us to win if we don’t do those things,” coach Frank Martin said. “We got nothing from our bigs. Our bigs gave us absolutely nothing today.”
Chris Silva started his second game and had more fouls (five) than points and rebounds (three each, although he blocked two shots). Laimonas Chatkevicius scored seven points with one rebound. Mindaugas Kacinas had seven and six and Raymond Doby was zeroes in each category.
Carrera couldn’t explain his teammates lack of energy, or of the technical. “I have no idea,” he said five times.
The loss squandered an opportunity for the Gamecocks to head to No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday for a shot at first place. USC is still in solid position in the standings and for the postseason, but dropped the first of a crucial four-game swing. The next three games are against the top three teams in the conference, which share space with the Gamecocks.
Martin, a bouncer in his younger days, said many of his players were listless. Looking ahead at the next game and what the Gamecocks can’t do, he put it in bouncer terms.
“It’s man to man. Sometimes you walk into a bar, you got to get out,” he said. “You got to be man enough to get out of the bar. Today we didn’t do a very good job of that.”
Down 10 at halftime, USC startedthe second half with a miss by Thornwell. Georgia got the rebound by J.J. Frazier flying over the USC bench to tap the ball back in bounds.
Frazier hurriedly ran back into the game, went all the way downcourt, got the ball and stroked a 3-pointer. It was a sign of 3s to come.
Star of the game: It’s a testament to how hard Carrera plays that the Georgia faithful showered him with boos every time he touched the ball. He’s the type of player where you love him if he’s yours, hate him if he’s not.
He played the final two minutes of the first half without a shoe. He lost it and play didn’t stop, so he threw it to the side and kept playing.
Play of the game: USC had the deficit down to three points with 8:30 to play. The Gamecocks picked off a pass and had a two-on-one fast break.
Jamall Gregory fell down about to pass the ball to the trail man. He threw it right to Charles Mann, who ran down, was fouled and made two free throws.
Stat of the game: The Gamecocks had 14 turnovers and 18 field goals.
FROM THE BASELINE
Take it: The stat sheet said Georgia only had 16 second-chance points. It seemed like about a third of what the Bulldogs really had. Every loose ball was going to a white jersey, and the Gamecocks handed them away in every way – after missed free throws, after desperation 3s, after deflected balls when they stood their ground in the post.
Mork: What has happened to Kacinas? He was the team’s most consistent player for two months. In his past four games he’s 9-for-29 for 24 points.
The Gamecocks had it down to three before the Gregory turnover, and P.J. Dozier drove the lane and dished to Kacinas under the rim. Kacinas wasn’t ready and tipped it out of bounds.
Who: South Carolina at No. 8 Texas A&M
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Reed Arena; College Station, Texas
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState
SOUTH CAROLINA (19-3)
Thornwell 5-15 6-6 18, Dozier 2-8 0-1 4, Carrera 4-12 1-3 11, Kacinas 2-7 3-6 7, Silva 1-2 1-1 3, Stroman 0-1 0-0 0, Doby 0-0 0-0 0, Gregory 0-0 0-0 0, Notice 2-8 0-0 6, Chatkevicius 2-4 2-2 7, McKie 0-0 0-0 0, Cobb 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-57 13-19 56.<
Maten 8-15 2-3 18, Mann 2-5 6-8 11, Gaines 6-15 2-4 17, Geno 1-3 0-0 2, Frazier 3-11 4-6 13, Jackson II 0-2 0-0 0, Wilridge 1-1 2-2 5, Kessler 0-0 0-0 0, Edwards 0-1 1-2 1, Ogbeide 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 22-57 17-25 69.<
Halftime_Georgia 33-23. 3-Point Goals_South Carolina 7-22 (Carrera 2-5, Notice 2-6, Thornwell 2-8, Chatkevicius 1-1, Dozier 0-1, Kacinas 0-1), Georgia 8-23 (Gaines 3-8, Frazier 3-8, Wilridge 1-1, Mann 1-3, Jackson II 0-1, Geno 0-2). Fouled Out_Carrera, Silva. Rebounds_South Carolina 38 (Thornwell 11), Georgia 43 (Maten 8). Assists_South Carolina 9 (Dozier, Notice 3), Georgia 11 (Frazier 5). Total Fouls_South Carolina 23, Georgia 19. Technical_Carrera. Attendance_6,427.