Steffenie Burns/UGA
Turtle Jackson and the Georgia Bulldogs lost to conference rival South Carolina on Saturday.

Analysis: Georgia can’t get going at home against South Carolina

ATHENS — On Saturday afternoon, Georgia dropped to 2-3 in SEC play and 11-5 overall, losing 64-57 to South Carolina. It was the second loss of the week for the Bulldogs, who lost to Missouri on Wednesday night.

South Carolina get off to a hot start, going on a 7-0 run in the opening minutes. While the Gamecocks had success on offense in the first half, the Bulldogs struggled with fouls, committing 7 before the 10-minute mark.

Yante Maten kept the game within striking distance for Georgia. During a 3-minute span in the first half, Maten scored 8 points down low. By the 8-minute mark, South Carolina led 21-20 thanks to Maten’s play.

But turnovers and missed shots from Georgia opened the door for South Carolina to establish a 37-29 halftime lead.

Georgia started strong in the second half to pull within 39-38. For the next 4 minutes, Georgia kept it close, staying within range until Gamecocks guard Hassani Gravett hit a 3-pointer for a 49-43 lead with less than 8 minutes to go.

Georgia fought back and tied it at 49, but a 3-pointer from South Carolina guard Frank Booker on the next possession re-established the Gamecocks’ lead.

Three who mattered

Booker: The South Carolina guard didn’t see much playing time until late in the first half, but he quickly made up for lost time. Booker recorded an offensive putback before being fouled by Georgia’s Tyree Crump behind the 3-point line. Booker made all three free throws and on the next possession hit a jumper to stretch the Gamecocks’ lead to 28-20. In the second half, Booker continued to be the difference-maker, finishing with 17 points.

Maten: Once again, the senior forward paced the Georgia offense. While he struggled to get many opportunities at the top of the key, Maten made his presence known in the paint. He led Georgia with 25 points and 8 rebounds.

Juwan Parker: Though Parker didn’t start, he entered the game relatively quickly and made a difference in keeping Georgia in the game. Twice, Parker went up for a shot and converted as a South Carolina defender slammed into him. Parker, in turn, made his free throws on both occasions. Parker finished with 11 points.

Turning point

With less than 5 minutes to go and after trailing throughout the game, Georgia tied it at 49 with Maten scoring down low. South Carolina, however, silenced the Stegeman Coliseum crowd as Booker stepped back behind the arc and drilled a 3-pointer to give the Gamecocks a 52-49 lead. It was the spark South Carolina needed to hold off Georgia.

Observation

Hammonds struggles: Georgia didn’t get any offensive production from freshman Rayshaun Hammonds, who played 36 minutes but failed to score. Hammonds, who averages 8 points, was 0 for 4 from the field and had two of Georgia’s 13 turnovers.

Worth mentioning

In attendance: Georgia football coach and SEC coach of the year Kirby Smart was in attendance. Many fans at Stegeman Coliseum rose to their feet as Smart’s son frantically tried to get his dad’s attention on the video board. Once he did, father and son waved to the excited Stegeman crowd.

They said it

South Carolina coach Frank Martin on Georgia’s identity and his team’s defensive game plan coming in: “[Georgia is] going to play through their identity; it’s Maten, who is as hard of a guy to guard as there is in this league since I have been here. He is a shot-maker, strong as an ox, and he is not scared of playing in the post with some contact. We didn’t want to double him early. We did talk about doubling him as the game progressed to kind of get him off rhythm … but what we didn’t want Georgia to do was play off the catch. We wanted [Georgia] to have to play off the dribble.”

Derek Ogbeide on lack of offensive momentum: “We didn’t make as many shots as we would have liked to. … We did pick up some momentum [in the second half] but did such a poor job of sustaining it as the game prolonged.”

Maten on losing the battle on the boards: “You hear often that rebounding is all about will, blocking your man out and being tough with him and go get it, but I think there were a couple of bad bounces, but it was definitely some will. I think it was a mix of both.”

Georgia coach Mark Fox: “We anticipated that it would be a slugfest and when you have a game like that, you have to do things like rebounding and making free throws to win and we didn’t do that. … [South Carolina] is very disruptive in how they play. They are a hard team to really pass and catch against. It was a game where your guards needed to make some plays off the bounce and we didn’t make enough of those.”

What’s next?

Georgia travels to LSU at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.