MBB: South Carolina downs Georgia
SOUTH CAROLINA MEN'S BASKETBALL
South Carolina built a big first half lead and then held off Georgia for a 66-46 win to clinch the four seed in the SEC Tournament.
South Carolina led by 23 at halftime, but seemed to think the game was over, and there was a definite lack of energy in the second half. Georgia switched to a zone defense, making it hard for South Carolina to get the ball inside to Chris Silva, and clogging the driving lanes for Keyshawn Bryant and Hassani Gravett.
Georgia cut the lead to ten with six minutes to go, but that was as close as it got as Georgia did not make a field goal for the final 10:29 and South Carolina finished the game on a 15-5 run. It was a twelve point game with five minutes to play, when Keyshawn Bryant, who had just hit two free throws, got a dunk off an inbounds play. Silva went one way, taking two defenders with him, and Bryant, left alone, cut to the basket, caught the pass and dunked. It was part of an 8-1 run, with six points from Bryant, to retake control of the game. South Carolina then finished on a 7-0 run to get the lead back to 20.
“We missed some open shots that would have trimmed it down,” Tom Crean said. “There’s no question we were coming back. We had a couple turnovers and they made some timely plays. That was the difference.”
It wasn’t so much that Georgia played well in the second half, South Carolina was just that bad. South Carolina shot just 4-22 in the second half, and 14-23 from the foul line. But they made enough of the free throws down the stretch to pull back away. It helped that Georgia couldn’t make a basket either. Georgia went 5-20 from the floor, 2-11 from three, and 13-20 from the line.
Georgia led 13-12 when South Carolina took over. Georgia went nearly eight minutes without a field goal and turned the ball over six times as South Carolina pulled away. South Carolina went on an 18-1 run, scoring ten points off those turnovers.
But the Gamecocks weren’t done. They finished the half on a 12-0 run behind the dominance of Silva. He screened to defenders to open a lane for a Bryant layup, he hit a trail three, he drew a charge, he got an assist to Gravett on a three, and made a pair of free throws, all during that run. In fact, at halftime, Silva was responsible for 22 points (19 scored and the assist for three), while Georgia as a team was responsible for 21.
Silva finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, three charges drawn, and two assists. It was another dominate game for Silva, who was determined to go out with a win on Senior Day.
“We were loose,” Silva said. “Everybody made it fun today. I appreciate the fans that came out, I appreciate my teammate who gave me such love, my family and the coaches, they made it memorable.”
Bryant finished with 14 points and five rebounds, and was clutch down the stretch.
“That dude went boom-boom-boom-boom, to give us a lead again and get everybody to settle down,” Frank Martin said.
Georgia shot 11-42 for the game (26 percent), 4-22 from three, and 20-32 from the line. South Carolina was significantly better, although it normally would have been a bad game. South Carolina was 19-56 shooting (34 percent), 5-15 from three, and 23-32 from the line. South Carolina had a 41-37 rebounding edge, and scored 24 points off 20 turnovers. South Carolina shot just 18 percent in the second half.
“Jesus, Lord, have mercy,” Martin said.
With the win, South Carolina clinched fourth place in the SEC. Auburn finished with the same 11-7 record, but South Carolina has the tie-breaker due to the head-to-head win. As Martin pointed out, South Carolina never fell below fourth place in the SEC, and was in first place for the first three weeks. Asked what the double-bye means, Gravett was succinct.
“Rest,” he said. “We need some rest.”
With the win, Martin became South Carolina’s third winningest coach all-time, behind Frank McGuire and Frank Johnson. Martin has 129 wins, Johnson 174, and McGuire 283. The lesson here is that whenever Martin decides to hang it up, South Carolina needs to find a coach named Frank Franklin. … Freshman A.J. Lawson missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle. Martin hopes to have Lawson back for the SEC tournament. … The game was Silva’s SEC-leading seventh 20-10 game of the season. … Seniors Gravett and Tre Campbell had 12 and 11 points. … Martin tried to sub out each of his seniors in the final minute for an ovation, but somehow the substitution timeout was botched. Campbell got his ovation, but because of the mistake Gravett and Silva had to share theirs. … With two fouls Saturday, Silva has 466 for his career. That is tied for the most by a single player in the last ten years (as far back as records go). … To reiterate, there were 30 made baskets in the game. South Carolina alone made 33 baskets in the first game against Georgia. Its season-high was 34 against George Washington. … Announced attendance was 11,927. … South Carolina’s next games is Friday in the SEC Tournament, against an opponent to be determined.