Price Paces Dawgs over Carolina

ATHENS – Coaches told Jeremy Price before Friday's practice that he'd have to carry a bit more of the burden in Georgia's frontcourt against South Carolina. Not much more needed to be said.

With Albert Jackson suspended following his arrest earlier in the week, Price stepped in and chipped in 16 points and seven rebounds in a season high 33 minutes, leading the Bulldogs to a 66-61 win over South Carolina.

"He knew we had a smaller rotation (Saturday,)," head coach Mark Fox said of Price's performance. "He's a talented player, and he was able to sustain some minutes … and he didn't play a perfect game, but he finished a lot of plays, got some key rebounds for us and was a big part of the win."

Price was averaging just 6.5 points and 17.2 minutes per game so far this season, but the additional action was more than a test for him. It was a blessing.

Ten of Price's 16 points came in the second half, including six in the final 5:30, and his free throws with 1:09 remaining gave Georgia a lead it would never relinquish.

"It's a big confidence builder," Price said. "There's some shots I knew I missed and I struggled a little bit. I almost lost it a little bit, but I had to fight through that a little bit, keep my head up."

As tough as it was to battle through any fatigue – Price had played more than 33 minutes just once in his career, a 37-minute effort against Tulane in 2007 – Price's biggest challenge was fighting back his emotions during the highs and lows of Georgia's rollercoaster second-half.

After each missed rebound, Price shook his arms in frustration. After each basket he made, he celebrated.

"He's very emotional, very intense and we appreciate that about him," said Trey Thompkins, who led all scorers with 21 points. "He keeps us on edge. He kept us on edge tonight, and he delivered. We needed him to deliver in a big way and he did."

Price was one of just eight Bulldogs to play in the game and one of five to tally at least 33 minutes. But while the energy level could have faded down the stretch as it has so often for Georgia this season, the final five minutes of action were a tribute to the Bulldogs' resiliency.

Devan Downey's 3 at the buzzer sent the game to the half tied at 31, and South Carolina dominated the early going after the break. With 9:12 remaining, Downey's 3-pointer gave the Gamecocks a commanding 10-point lead and capped a 12-1 run.

A 3 by Ricky McPhee helped stop the bleeding for Georgia, and South Carolina's luck from behind the arc evaporated quickly. The Gamecocks converted on just 1 of their final 11 shots from 3, while Thompkins, Price and Travis Leslie led a furious comeback that turned a 9-point deficit into a 7-point lead in just more than five minutes of action. The Bulldogs finished the game with a 16-2 run before Brandis Raley-Ross hit a lay-up with two seconds left and the game out of reach.

"We've taken a big step forward because our level of maturity is growing," Thompkins said. "We rebounded the ball, and we played defense. We got a couple buckets on our end, and that turned the tide."

Still, it was the presence of Price in the low post that proved to be the difference.

While South Carolina suffered through poor shooting – the Gamecocks finished 9-of-32 from 3-point range and shot just 36.9 percent from the field in the game – Georgia proved to be the aggressor.

The Bulldogs finished with a 37-34 edge on the boards and took 17 more free throws in the game, despite playing shorthanded.

"We played against the zone, and our best shooter (McPhee) looked like he needed an IV," Fox said. "And on a night when the ball wasn't going in, Jeremy's play was critical."

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