The Gamecocks lost a heartbreaker to Georgia this evening, going down 62-54 in overtime. This was an ugly, ugly game, one that was that was marred as much by poor officiating as poor play from both teams. I'll get to the officiating in a moment. For now, the trajectory of the game: Both teams struggled on offense for most of the game; the halftime score was 23-16, UGA. However, Carolina played better in the second half, finally taking its first lead of the game around halfway through the half. Carolina looked to be pulling away down the stretch, but it committed a variety of mistakes in the final couple of minutes and failed to close the deal. It was an ugly showing from Carolina. We were up four with the ball with 1:21 to go, but Eric Smith turned the ball over on a lazy in-bounds pass. After Georgia cut it to three, Smith missed a couple of free throws. Laimonas Chatkevicius nabbed an offensive rebound, but missed an easy putback when either scoring or pulling it out might have iced the game. Georgia then cut it to one. Chatkevius (the end of this game wasn't his finest hour) turns the ball over again. UGA misses a couple of free throws with a chance to take the lead. Smith then makes a couple to extend the lead to three. Georgia star Kentavious Caldwell-Pope then made a game-tying three with about 10 seconds left.
Then, things got weird.
Whereas the Gamecocks should have had 8.9 seconds to take the ball down the court and attack the basket, the game clock was started before Carolina put the ball in play, giving us only a few seconds. Bruce Ellington was forced to try a desperation three. The officials met and talked the matter over--and their solution was to let us inbound the ball again from under UGA's basket with 4.5 seconds on the clock. I have no idea how this solution was determined. The result was predictable, of course--Ellington again missed a desperation three. This was a royal screw job. Yes, we got two chances to win the game with desperation shots--but we missed out on the opportunity to win it on a higher-percentage shot attacking the basket.
What puts the officiating in a worse light is that UGA shot a full 22 more free throws than we did. Many of their trips to the line came after thoroughly petty, ticky-tacky fouls. There were a number of seemingly blown calls--a missed call on a goal tend of a shot by Ellington early in the game, a blocking foul called on Michael Carrera on what looked to be a charge in overtime. The latter sent Carrera to the bench with five fouls and allowed UGA to extend its two-point lead instead of giving us the ball with a chance to tie. It was an unevenly called game, and I hope the SEC looks closely at the performance of these officials.
All of that said, Carolina had this game in the bag late in regulation, but it blew it with a series of mistakes. We have every reason to be upset with the officiating, but we have just as much reason to be disappointed that our team yet again failed to capitalize on a very winnable situation.