ATHENS, Ga. - Sometimes on the road, the rim shrinks, the ball gets bigger and even the easiest of shots become the greatest of challenges.
For a South Carolina team with its back against the wall, missing layups, a season-high in fouls and poor inside play was a recipe for a fifth-straight SEC loss and fourth consecutive loss in Athens as the Gamecocks fell 97-76 Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum.
For USC coach Frank Martin, the blowout loss after three close league games marked his lowest point as head coach of the Gamecocks (7-11, 0-5).
"I wish we didn't have the new rule (limiting practice times), otherwise we'd practice when we got home," Martin said. "Maybe I'll see my kids in the morning, take them to school and get excited about life again, because I'm definitely not excited about life right now."
Asked if this is as bad as he's felt following a loss, Martin was clear.
"Since I've been at South Carolina, yes," Martin said.
Behind a career-high 22 points from sophomore forward Nemanja Djusisic, who was perfect from the floor on 6-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range, the Bulldogs put five players in double figures and outscored the Gamecocks in points off the bench 39-17 in the rout.
"They're not a high 3-point field goal percentage team," Martin said of Georgia, which was 6-of-11 in the first half from long range and 10-of-18 for the game "That's not who they are. They came out today, and everything they shot (fell).
"(Djurisic), after he's made like five (shots), do you think our guys would say, 'OK, there he is.' I know coach (Perry) Clark put on the scouting report, 'Shoots it from everywhere.' I know that was on the scouting report for two days. So after we lost him and he made five, you think somebody would have said, 'Hey, yo, he's over there. Maybe I need to stay over there and find him.' We have to do a better job. When a team plays this way, obviously it wasn't coached bvery well, so we have to do a better job."
The lone bright spot was the Gamecocks was Sindarius Thornwell, who scored a career-high 26 points. Brent Williams was second on the team with 18, followed by 14 from Duane Notice and 12 from Jaylen Shaw.
South Carolina's inside play was a problem once more. Five Gamecock forwards combined to shot 1-for-11 (two, Desmond Ringer and Mindaugas Kacinas, failed to take a shot) while committing 22 fouls. Martin said he had no answers for how to improve their performance.
"For one, maybe we can start getting a defensive rebound of a missed free throw," Martin said. "They don't block shots, they don't score, they don't rebound when it's a live play, maybe we can get them to rebound a missed free throw. If we can start there, maybe we can take a step after that."
Defensively, the Gamecocks had no answers for a Georgia team that drove and set its offense at will, leading USC to commit 33 fouls and allow 50 free throws, both season-highs.
"You just saw us play triangle two and zone and all we did was foul," Martin said. "If you can't guard the basketball, I don't care what defense you play, what strategy, whether you're gap defense, prevent defense, I don't care if you play eight against five, if the guy guarding the basketball isn't man enough to keep the ball in front of him, it's going to be hard to win the game.
On a night like tonight when every perimeter shot they made goes in, credit them. They played well. We had two, three, maybe four guys that really tried to play well, but we didn't have enough."
Asked whether he thought it was tough to get into a rhythm with so many whistles blown, Martin paused a long time before responding.
"I probably don't need to answer that right now," Martin said.
In the first half, the Gamecocks hung with the Bulldogs for five minutes, trailing 11-8 with 14:48 to play. From there, Georgia methodically pulled away, engineering a 14-5 run to push the lead to double digits and then calmly extending it to as many as 15 before taking an 11-point advantage into the locker room. Leading the way for the Bulldogs was Djurisic. Averaging 9.8 points per game, Djurisic topped that in the first half with 13, going 3-of-3 from the field, 1-for-1 from 3-point range and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Duane Notice led USC with 13 first-half points, followed by eight from Thornwell. For the half, the Gamecocks shot just 40 percent from the floor and only 57.1 percent from the floor on 12-of-21 shooting.
Next up for the Gamecocks is a road trip to Missouri on Saturday at 4 p.m.