South Carolina (14-10, 5-5) could not score in the final minutes of the game in Athens to lose a much needed game 66-61 after leading Georgia (11-12, 3-7) by 10, 52-42, with a little over 9 minutes remaining in the contest.
With a late winter storm leaving snow and ice all over the midlands of South Carolina, the Gamecocks traveled to Athens hoping for a win and another step toward the NCAA post season festival.
The Gamecocks shot themselves out of the game and possibly out of the NCAA dance, by avoiding the post in half court offenses and settling for the tough three-point score rather than forcing the Dawgs to play defense in the paint.
Georgia only committed seven fouls with only Ricky McPhee recording two fouls for the game.
Devan Downey (6-22) and Brandis Raley Ross (7-18) were 13-40 of the 65 shots taken for the game by the Gamecocks. 26 of the shots by the starting back court were from long distance, connecting on only seven.
With two three-pointers in a row by Downey finishing the first half for South Carolina to leave the game at a tie, 31-31, the visitors entered the second half with a less than urgent character as the perimeter shooting and some cold Bulldogs shooting in the first 10 minutes of the second half allowed USC to sneak to a lead that placed urgency to Head Coach Mark Fox's Bulldogs.
By placing the offense in an inside-out rhythm, the Dawgs chipped away at the USC lead from the paint, the free throw line and long range to outscore the Cocks 24-9 to finish the game. At one period Georgia went 13-0 in the overall run.
The 36 points, 18 each by Ross and Downey was little less than impressive, the post un-attacked and Georgia left to relax in the post.
Georgia played all five starters in 33 minutes or more and was able to get balanced shot selection and scoring from post to perimeter with Trey Thompkins scoring 21, Jeremy Price 16 and Travis Leslie 15. Thompkins added 10 rebounds for his 6th double-double of the season.
Sam Muldrow played 27 minutes shooting 8 shots making only 2, and no trips to the free throw line. Georgia was 20-23 from the charity stripe versus USC 4-6.
The lack of fouls committed with the ball staying on the USC perimeter allowed the Bulldogs to keep the Gamecocks off the line. Georgia only took 49 official shots from the field for the game, 16 less than South Carolina. 16 is the exact number of 3-point shots taken by Fox's home team, which is 16 less than the 32 taken by the visiting team.
Coach Horn will have to find a better blend of shots, ball movement and post use in the offense to be successful for the remainder of the season. All teams will be able to defend and create difficult shots for a perimeter oriented squad with its leading scorer the 5'9" point guard and all other scoring threats a mystery from game to game.
In the current trend, USC will have to rely on spectacular perimeter scoring or tremendous offensive rebounding to win a significant number of the remaining games.
Next up Arkansas in Fayetteville, Wednesday in a true "do or die" game for any chance at an NCAA post season invitation to the dance. Without this win, the Cocks will be forced to make the finals of the SEC, and without at least a 9-7 conference record, the trip to the big dance will require a tournament championship. Horn's a fighter, will his team adopt his tenacity?
A former basketball player and coach with over a decade of national experience, who later founded player development programs before expanding his knowledge and experiences to media services and outlets, Duane "The Shot Doctor" Everett can be heard every weekday in Columbia as a host and analyst on ESPN Radio Columbia's "The Zone" on 93.1 FM from 3-6 p.m.
Other entries such as this one can be found on Everett's blog, "The Shot Doctor".
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