The University of Georgia Men’s Basketball team suffered a tough road loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks 83-66 on Saturday afternoon in Columbia.
Erik Stevenson and Keyshawn Bryant led the offense for the Gamecocks, dropping 20 and 19 points, respectively. Braelen Bridges had a great game for Georgia, scoring 20 points on 8-11 shooting and making efficient use of his low post touches.
The Dawgs lived at the free-throw line in the first half and impressively took advantage of their opportunities in shooting 95%, converting on 21 of their 22 attempts. Georgia took the ball to the rim aggressively and drew fouls against the Gamecocks, who led the league in that category entering Saturday’s game, with ease. The Bulldogs put tremendous pressure on the interior defense for South Carolina from the 4 spot, as Noah Baumann and Jabri Abdur-Rahim each went 5-5 from the charity stripe in the first period.
The two squads played a competitive initial 6 minutes of basketball and found early success from behind the arc as Baumann connected on a pair of triples while the Gamecocks got long-range connections from Bryant and Stevenson as they built a 14-10 advantage with 14:16 on the clock. From there, Georgia scored 12 unanswered points, 8 of which came from the free-throw line, as they got the ball into the middle of the South Carolina defense and gave themselves easy opportunities to score. Despite a field goal drought spanning over 4 minutes, the Dawgs maintained their lead thanks to their efficiency at the free-throw line as Christian Wright dropped in 6 in a row and Baumann added a pair before ending the field goal hiatus with a 3-Pointer to put Georgia up by 12 with 7:02 to play in the half. Later, consecutive fast break buckets from Jermaine Couisnard and James Reese V trimmed the Georgia advantage to as little as 5 points at a score of 35-30 with 3:31 remaining. The teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the half, essentially trading buckets before heading to the locker room with a halftime score of 42-36 in favor of Georgia.
It was the Braelen Bridges show in the first 6 minutes of the second half for Georgia, as the senior big man went to work in the paint and put his deep post move arsenal on full display, converting on all 5 of his field goal attempts down low as the Dawgs grew their lead back up to 11 points at a score of 55-44 with 14:02 left in the game. The Gamecocks responded with a 8-1 scoring spurt as Stevenson connected on a pair of perimeter shots before a 3-Pointer from Couisnard brought South Carolina back to within 4. Abdur-Rahim ended the Georgia field goal drought with a tough scooping layup before a pair of Wright free-throws put the Dawgs back up by 7 at a score of 60-53 with 10:39 left in the contest.
Just as Georgia looked to be in control of the game and poised to contend for their first conference victory, South Carolina then proceeded to unleash one of the most dominant scoring runs across college basketball this season. The Gamecocks scored 24 unanswered points over a 6:33 span to put themselves up by 17 points with under 4 minutes to play after trailing by 7. Keyshawn Bryant lit it up during this stretch, putting up 12 points while demonstrating an ability to score from all 3 levels. Although Georgia struggled to take care of the ball in the second half in recording 11 turnovers, only 2 of them occurred during this monstrous scoring run. Ultimately, the Dawgs simply strayed from what had been effective offensively earlier in the game and struggled to make shots.
In a post-game press conference, Head Coach Tom Crean commented that his team “got away from what was working. We got away from feeding the post… (and) playing through the post and high post area when they went zone,” which had helped the Dawgs build the lead they enjoyed for the majority of the contest.
After recording such impressive free-throw numbers in the first half, Georgia went only 4-8 in the second period. When asked what trend explained this difference, Crean voiced his disapproval of the decision making by the officials in the second half, saying that he “has a very different view of what verticality is based on the way this game was officiated today.” He added that “in a game of physicality like that, you really don’t get to interpret what verticality is and what verticality isn’t during the course of the game.”
The loss on Saturday brings the Dawgs to 5-14 on the season and 0-6 in conference play as they prepare to return to Athens to host the University of Alabama on Tuesday in Stegman Coliseum.