Dawgs Survive Carolina Comeback

COLUMBIA – Mark Fox had already decided not to order the foul.

Still, given the amazing circumstances, he felt he needed to go around the huddle and make sure his confidence was warranted.

"Do you trust your defense?" asked Fox, the Georgia head men's basketball coach.

One by one, according to junior forward Trey Thompkins, the five starters said they did. And a few moments later Thompkins came through with the block that saved the game and avoided what would have been an epic meltdown loss.

Georgia's 60-56 win after nearly blowing a 23-point second-half lead to South Carolina, which scored just nine points in the first half.

It ended up being a crucial road win for Georgia (17-7 overall), which at 6-4 is now tied for second in the SEC East. But what should have been a coasting win turned into a stressful finish.

"It just seemed like the clock wasn't running at all," Thompkins said of the final 11 minutes.

Georgia led by as few as two, with 1:16 left. It was a three-point lead when Dustin Ware missed a long 3, and the Gamecocks (13-10, 4-6) called timeout with 11.7 seconds left.

Fox could have ordered his team to foul, preventing a game-tying 3 attempt. Less than three weeks ago, Georgia lost in double overtime to Florida after the Gators sunk a long three at the end of the first overtime.

But Fox elected to let it ride. As for Thompkins, he said he "had a feeling" South Carolina was going to either run a ball-screen to center Sam Muldrow or run guard Bruce Ellington off a screen. It was the latter, and Thompkins stepped into Ellington, blocking the shot cleanly. Georgia guard Gerald Robinson grabbed it out of the air and was fouled with 4.9 seconds left.

"(Fox) actually asked us if we trusted our defense and we told him that we did," Thompkins said. "He trusted us enough to put us on the floor and expect us to make the stop and we did."

It wasn't over yet. Robinson missed the first free throw, but sunk the second to seal the game.

Georgia guard Travis Leslie was asked how much relief he felt when it was over.

"A lot," he said, with a smile.

South Carolina's first half output was the program's lowest in an SEC game since they joined the league in 1992.

The Gamecocks were 4-for-28 from the field in the first half, and missed all 12 of its 3-point attempts. Guard Ramon Galloway missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2.5 seconds left that would have avoided the single-digit half.

But Fox said he reminded the team at halftime that South Carolina came back to win against Vanderbilt.

"We tried to avoid it and did," Fox said. "But certainly it got interesting there in the second half."

At first the Bulldogs looked to have staved off the threat. After the Gamecocks quickly got the lead down to 12, a flurry of 3s – two by Ware and one each by Thompkins and Leslie – made it 47-24.

But South Carolina's trapping flustered the Bulldogs, and the lead was down to four with two minutes left.

"One of our timeouts I asked ‘Guys what are we doing here?'" Fox said. "We just went south with the way we attack pressure."

But after the game Fox preferred to focus on the positive – holding on for a league road win – rather than nearly blowing a huge lead.

"We're not the perfect team. We're not going to be," Fox said. "We have deficiencies in lots of areas, and we're not gonna correct those all this year, and we just need to learn to stay away from some of those, and clean up what we can."

Leslie, who endured losing records his first two seasons at Georgia, saw it as a sign of growth.

"We're just a better team this year," Leslie said. "I don't think last year we would've come out with the ‘W'."

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