Fredrick, Gamecocks down Bulldogs
In his pregame press conference, Dave Odom called the recent games between Carolina and Georgia "anything except something you would want to put in a book and say this is how you play basketball." After the first half of Wednesday night's game, that book has another chapter missing. Both offenses struggled to score, with Carolina shooting 35.5% and Georgia shooting 37.9% from the field.
"I thought defensively we kept them off stride," Odom said diplomatically. "Georgia's a team that on certain nights has had trouble scoring. Tonight was one of those nights. We made just enough baskets [to win]."
The Gamecocks started the game off well, or at least better than Georgia. Carolina held the Bulldogs scoreless for more than 5 minutes in the first half as they doubled up Georgia, 22-11. Georgia coach Dennis Felton called a timeout, and the Bulldogs responded with six straight points. The Gamecocks answered with a very unusual four-point play. Dominique Archie hit a jumper from the wing, and a foul was called on Georgia's Corey Butler underneath the basket. Archie's basket counted, and Dwayne Day made two free throws to give the Gamecocks a 26-17 lead. Once again, though, Carolina struggled to close out the half, allowing Georgia to score the next seven points to pull within two at halftime.
"The last minute of the first half, I just had nightmares again," Odom said. "We just seem to go to pieces in situations like that. We're our own worst enemy."
Both teams found their offense in the second half, but it was the Gamecocks who really rediscovered their shooting touch. Carolina shot 50.0% for the half and used a 12-0 run early in the half to take a 42-28 lead. The Bulldogs, who actually shot worse in the second half with 36.1%, slowly battled back, and used a 9-2 run to pull within four, 55-51 with 1:31 to play. At that point, the Gamecocks were thinking about their history of late game collapses, and Odom called a timeout to regroup.
"You want your team to be able to play through that kind of thing," said Odom, "but I think we need to make sure that we continue to direct and teach them. I want to make sure that they knew I had confidence in them."
Zam Fredrick, who had a game-high 23 points, answered the bell in crunch time for Carolina. He made a driving layup to give the Gamecocks a six point lead. Then he grabbed a big rebound to end Georgia's next possession, and made two free throws to effectively put the game out of reach.
"I think the biggest shot of the game was Zam's baseline drive and double-pump power layup," Odom said. "That was a huge shot for us because we were struggling to make a shot at the time."
The offensive struggles were pretty ugly for both teams. In the first half, Georgia shot just 1-11 from behind the arc, and the Gamecocks were just 1-8. For the game, Georgia was a cover-your-eyes awful 4-27, or 14.8%, from three. The main culprit was Billy Humphrey, who was 1-12. Carolina was not much better, at 4-17 for 23.5%. The Gamecocks had 36 rebounds for the game, the same number of points they scored in the second half. Georgia had 42 rebounds, 10 more than they scored in the second half.
Carolina did have some success at the free throw line. After going just 2-3 from the stripe against Kentucky, Carolina went to the line 16 times against Georgia. However, they made just 10 of those attempts, and missed the front end of a one-and-one three times. Fredrick's free throw with 28 seconds left was the first time the Gamecocks converted a one-and-one.
"If you get [to the line], be careful what you wish for," Odom joked after the game. "We got there and didn't make the shots tonight. I know we're a good free throw shooting team, so I want to make sure we keep getting there."
- Despite his intentions, Odom was not able to give Downey and Fredrick more rest. In fact, Odom shortened his bench. Only seven Gamecocks saw action, with Brandis Raley-Ross and Sam Muldrow coming off the bench.
- Downey had one of his quietest games this year, scoring just 9 points with 5 assists, a rebound, steal and turnover. It marked the first time this year he did not score in double figures.
- Terrance Woodbury led Georgia with 15 points.
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