Frank Booker jogged by the baseline before curling around Felipe Haase’s screen and collecting Hassani Gravett’s pass on the left wing. The catch was clean, the release was quick and the swish gave South Carolina a lead it wouldn’t give back Saturday afternoon against Georgia.
USC’s 64-57 win over the Bulldogs likely doesn’t come if Booker reads the stat sheet prior to knocking down the 3-pointer that broke a 49-all tie with 3:14 remaining. The Gamecocks, to that point, were 4 of 24 from the field in the second half.
“You just got to have shooters amnesia,” Booker said afterward. “You don’t think about the shots that you missed. You just focus on the next shot that’s coming up and shoot the ball like you always shoot it.”
ESPN’s Sean Farnham tweeted Saturday evening that the Gamecocks (11-6, 2-3 SEC) made history in Stegeman Coliseum. Their 27.1 field goal percentage is lowest by a winning college basketball team on the road since St. Francis Brooklyn overcame a 26.6 percentage to win at LIU Brooklyn on Feb. 26, 2015.
The performance also marked USC’s lowest FG percentage in a win over the six-year Frank Martin era, topping the 57-53 victory over Florida on Jan. 18, 2017, when the Gamecocks got away with a 29.4 effort.
But Booker, who finished with a team-high 17 points, at least ended Saturday on a high note. After his tie-breaking 3, he splashed another with 1:22 to left the seal the game.
Carolina went 6 of 26 in the second half.
“We took good shots for the most part during the course of the game and we just missed,” Martin said. “I can’t word it any other way. We just missed.
“And when you take good shots, you’re going to make some. Everyone thinks a good shot is whatever’s good for a guy. It’s also what’s good for the team. And today we took good shots.”
Most of the six makes, Booker’s final two included, in the second half were timely. Haase broke a 39-all tie with a jumper at the 14:07 mark. Gravett stretched the lead to four with a 3-pointer at the 9:06 mark. Justin Minaya collected one of USC’s 18 offensive rebounds at the 8:15 mark and scored three seconds later to put the Gamecocks up six.
South Carolina, of course, also benefited from a season-best 26 made free throws. It went 5 of 8 from the line over the final 41 seconds.
“We still didn’t make a lot of shots, but we made enough to win,” Martin said. “The best part is we got to the free throw line.”
The Gamecocks only committed seven turnovers, their fewest this season and the fourth fewest of the Martin era.
Some other takeaways from Saturday’s win:
Chris Silva did more than dunk and foul
The 6-foot-9 forward, in a battle against one of the SEC’s best post players in Yante Maten, finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. That all about meets his season averages. But Silva only had three fouls – allowing him to tie a career-high with 35 minutes – and dished out a career-high four assists.
Putting that latter statistic in perspective: Silva played 32 games as a freshman and recorded six assists – for the season.
“Every time I play and I don’t do right, I go to Coach and we try to watch film,” Silva said. “I realized I’m getting doubled a lot, so he told me to catch the ball, be patient, see the floor and things are just gonna happen. That’s what I tried to do today.”
Maik Kotsar’s offensive slide continues
After Saturday’s performance, the Gamecocks are up to 18th nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency ratings. Martin said Kotsar is helping his program stay elite in that area of the game.
But there’s no denying Kotsar’s offensive struggles. The 6-10 forward finished with two points on 1 of 10 shooting against Georgia. Kotsar’s now shooting 25 percent (9 of 36) in conference games this season.
“There was a timeout there towards the end of the game,” Martin said, “where I just asked him. I said, ‘Maik, what are you scared of? What are you worrying about? Make a shot.’ But then again, he’s a sophomore and he’s trying to embrace more responsibility.”
Season-defining stretch ahead
USC hosts Kentucky and Tennessee this week. Next week, it’s a trip to Florida and a home Big 12/SEC Challenge date with Texas Tech.
All four opponents are in the top 32 of KenPom’s overall rankings. The Wildcats, Volunteers and Red Raiders appeared in last week’s AP Top 25.