South Carolina was hoping history would repeat itself. It did, but not in the way Gamecock fans thought it would.
Last season, the Gamecocks took both regular season meetings from the Bulldogs, only to fall to a higher-seeded UGA team in the SEC Tournament last March. It was all set-up for a little role reversal Friday night in Nashville. Georgia took both match-ups this season, including Senior Night in Columbia, and now they met for the third time this season in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
The twist seemed destined to happen as USC controlled the game for most of the night, consistently supporting a two-possession lead over Georgia. The Bulldogs broke open in the second half, going on two large runs, the last one putting itself in prime territory to steal the game.
An 11-0 Georgia run midway through the second half brought the game close but South Carolina was able to punch back and build another multi-possession lead.
In the midst of an 8-0 run, the Bulldogs took their first lead of the game with three minutes left to play. The game remained close to the final buzzer, with teams trading leads in the final few minutes and eventually coming to a draw with 20 seconds to play following a J.J. Frazier floater. The Georgia guard split a trapping double team to float a shot in the paint over Laimonas Chatkevicius to tie the game at 64.
With the shot clock turned off, South Carolina had its opportunity with the game's final possession. Sindarius Thornwell had been spectacular all night, but when it mattered most, he made a grave mistake. At the top of the key, with the clock winding down, Thornwell began his attack, only to be stripped by Frazier. Thrown into panic mode, Thornwell tried to make a play to get the ball back and ended up fouling Frazier with under 10 seconds left in the game. Frazier was automatically sent to the line, making 1-of-2 free throws, swiping the win away from the Bulldogs.
That final play does not erase the performance Thornwell put on Friday night. While it will sting for Carolina fans, they are not in that game without the junior's talents. The Gamecocks were without leading scorer, and team leader, Michael Carrera, who is still sidelined with a hip injury.
This loss paints an ominous picture for South Carolina moving forward. I still expect them to be dancing on Sunday afternoon, but now there is a cloud of doubt, the size likely varying from mind to mind. I'd be shocked if they were left out still, but a win certainly would have made Gamecock Nation feel better.
History did repeat itself, and unfortunately, it was the most recent history.