After back-to-back home wins, No 25 South Carolina countered with one of their worst performances of the season. On the road for the first time in more than a week, the Gamecocks fell 69-56 to the Georgia Bulldogs on Tuesday night in Athens.
USC was slow and lazy right off the bus. They missed their first five shots from the field and made just three of their 20 field goal attempts in the first 16 minutes of game action. The Gamecocks went over five minutes without a field goal in the first half. The team found some life in the final three minutes of the half when they were somehow able to string together three consecutive baskets. Georgia, who had their own issues offensively to start, wasn't running South Carolina out of the gym despite the Gamecocks offensive incompetence. They did counter though when they needed to. When USC strung together those three field goals, UGA's Yante Maten scored four points in the first half's closing moments to give the ‘Dawgs a 10-point lead at halftime.
Down double-digits at the half, South Carolina needed to find some kind of life offensively because their defense was absolutely good enough to win this game. USC benefitted from a rough first half from Georgia star J.J. Frazier, who offered up a doughnut in the scoring column. He would come alive in the second half to the Gamecocks detriment.
South Carolina rallied several times in the game's final 20 minutes but it always seemed like Frazier was there for a three-pointer to put the Gamecocks just out of reach. Frazier knocked down a trey to begin the half, giving the ‘Dawgs a 13-point lead. The Gamecocks didn't give up though, roaring back with an 8-0 run thanks to three-pointers from Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice plus a jumper from Michael Carrera.
It was now just a five-point game with a little under 16 minutes remaining. Ten minutes later, the Gamecocks were only able to make up three more points on their deficit, but it was now a two-point game with six minutes left. The Bulldogs responded with three baskets in three minutes, including a Frazier three-pointer that put Georgia's lead at seven. South Carolina battled to make it a two-possession game in the final two minutes but Frazier was there again, and this time to put the game away, swishing a three-pointer off a Georgia offensive rebound under the two-minute mark.
After several minutes of offensive ineptitude in the first half, the Gamecocks hit nine of their first 16 shot attempts in the second half. The offense picked up to get them back in the game but it let them down when the game was on the line. In the final four minutes, USC mustered just one made field goal. Their 31.6 field goal percentage against the Bulldogs tied for the lowest mark of the season and it was the second time this season South Carolina failed to surpass 60 points.
South Carolina was not engaged at the opening tip, and their energy and effort lacked, putting themselves in a double-digit hole. It's been a common problem this year as South Carolina dropped its second of three SEC road games Tuesday night. They also lost for the sixth time in their last seven trips to Stegeman Coliseum.
It certainly doesn't get any easier as not only is South Carolina's next game on the road, but they are visiting No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies won last year's match-up in Columbia, and they appear to be a much better team than last season. Frank Martin better have his team focused or they could get run out of the gym in College Station.