NASHVILLE — Georgia and South Carolina are matching up in the SEC quarterfinals on Friday night, for the right to face Kentucky in Saturday’s semifinals. This blog will be updated regularly with scoring updates, notes and observations.
Right away, some big news for South Carolina: Senior forward Michael Carrera will not play because of a hip injury. Carrera, who was named to the coaches’ All-SEC first team earlier this week, leads the Gamecocks in scoring (15.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.7).
That obviously improves the chances for Georgia, which has already defeated South Carolina twice this season, including last week. Of course it was two weeks ago that Georgia was tripped up at Auburn despite the Tigers losing their leading scorer to an injury. Since then the Bulldogs have won four in a row.
- Georgia 65, South Carolina 64: Final. Frazier made the first free throw, then after a Mark Fox timeout appeared to intentionally miss the second. A wise move as the Gamecocks were out of timeouts. The outlet pass was intercepted by Charles Mann, and Georgia’s celebration was on.
- Georgia 64, South Carolina 64 (2.1 seconds left): Oh my, what a sequence from J.J. Frazier. Down two he dribbled through the defense and hit a floater to tie it with 16 seconds left. Then he stripped Thornwell on the other end, and was immediately fouled. Now he’s going to the line.
- Georgia 62, South Carolina 62 (1:25): Another tense game involving the Bulldogs, but so much riding on this one. They’ve been great at the free throw line down the stretch, but their last offensive set went nowhere, with Charles Mann’s ill-fated drive resulting in a turnover. Now it’s the Gamecocks’ ball, and you have to think the ball is going to Thornwell.
- Georgia 60, South Carolina 59 (3:03): Georgia takes its first lead, as Charles Mann hits both ends of a one-and-one. South Carolina is suddenly on the ropes, with Chatkevicius picking up his fourth foul.
- South Carolina 59, Georgia 56 (3:56): It’s a one-possession game, but it must feel like more on Georgia’s end. The Bulldogs have looked like the tight team, playing for their NCAA lives, while the Gamecocks have been more free and loose. Plus their height and length is giving Georgia problems, both around the rim and in the open court.
- South Carolina 56, Georgia 50 (5:56): Now it’s Chatkevicius burning the Bulldogs, as he’s up to 14 points. He’s too tall for Georgia’s front line. Every time the Bulldogs make a run the Gamecocks are answering.
- South Carolina 50, Georgia 49 (8:00): Briefly Georgia had it tied, on a Frazier lay-uyp, but then Thornwell went up for a long 3 at the top of the key, and everyone knew it would go in. Thornwell now has 21 points. He’s carrying his team the way he did last Saturday at Arkansas in the first game Michael Carrera missed. Georgia is playing with much better fluidity on offense. It just needs to figure out how to keep the ball away from Thornwell.
- South Carolina 45, Georgia 43 (10:45): Five-point possession: Charles Mann hit a bank shot while being fouled. He missed the free throw but Houston Kessler grabbed the rebound. And J.J. Frazier drilled a long 3 to make it a two-point game. Frank Martin wisely called timeout. Now we’ll see if the Bulldogs can sustain this run.
- South Carolina 45, Georgia 38 (11:46): The Bulldogs just can’t get out of their own way now. After getting it down to six and getting a rebound, they threw it away in their own backcourt, leading to a South Carolina 3. This game is being played at a sloppy, frenetic pace that’s favoring the Gamecocks. The Bulldogs need to sustain a run soon, and it’s going to probably take something from Kenny Gaines (only five points so far) or J.J. Frazier (seven points).
- South Carolina 38, Georgia 28 (17:08): Yante Maten is really struggling, shooting 2-for-8 and settling for some outside shots that aren’t going down. He also just got beat on a baseline drive.
- South Carolina 34, Georgia 26 (18:23): A smart, if angry, timeout by Mark Fox after his team falls back behind by eight. The Bulldogs were sloppy on both ends, with Kenny Gaines taking a careless drive and Yante Maten a rushed jumper. Throw in some poor defense, and that strong first-half finish is now almost canceled out, and the Bulldogs again are in a hole.
- South Carolina 29, Georgia 26 (19:56): Hey if you saw what I said about P.J. Dozier getting more time in the second half for South Carolina, never mind. He picked up his third foul all of four seconds into the second half.
- There’s reasonable room for improvement on both sides, with Georgia seeming to have the most upside. It only got five points apiece from J.J. Frazier and Kenny Gaines, and two points from Charles Mann. The Bulldogs shot 28 percent in the first half, making just two 3s, and gave up 10 offensive rebounds. Yante Maten only has seven points, but he’s going against such a tall front line that I suspect reaching the 20-point mark would be difficult. The points should be there for Georgia from outside or in transition. As for South Carolina, it lived off Sindarius Thornwell’s 13 points, and once he went quiet so did the rest of the team. But P.J. Dozier – who only averages 6.7 points a game but plays good defense – also sat the vast majority of the half with foul trouble. The difference is Michael Carrera isn’t going to put on a uniform and play. Whether Georgia can start dropping some 3s strikes me as the key early in the second half.
- South Carolina 29, Georgia 26 (halftime): Well that got better in a hurry for the Bulldogs, who finished the half on an 8-0 run. It was initially thought to be a 10-0 run, but Kenny Paul Geno’s last-second lay-in was waved off. We’ll see if the basket ends up mattering, but either way the last couple minutes changed the complexion of the game. There’s not as big a hole now, and the Bulldogs enter halftime with a bit more confidence. J.J. Frazier spurred the run with four straight points, and Derek Ogbeide also had a rare 2-for-2 trip to the line.
- South Carolina 29, Georgia 22 (2:22): Just as J.J. Frazier got going, scoring four straight points, he comes up limping and Mark Fox calls a timeout to get him out of the game. Frazier has gone behind the bench to have the trainer look at him. And he came right back in – but while he was out Charles Mann lost the ball out of bounds.
- South Carolina 29, Georgia 18 (3:22): Another example of Georgia just not being self-aware just occurred. After the Gamecocks scored on their fifth straight possession to extend the lead to double digits, the ball went down to Mike Edwards, who at this stage of his college career is offensively-challenged. His short hook shot caromed off. Georgia needs to get more high-percentage shots than that. The Bulldogs are now 6-for-22 from the field.
- South Carolina 23, Georgia 15 (5:49): This has been close to a nightmare so far for the Bulldogs. They can’t stop Sindarius Thornwell, who just had a four-point play and has 13 points. J.J. Frazier only has one point. As soon as Georgia showed some life on offense the shots started dropping even more for the Gamecocks. There’s still a lot of time left in this, but the Bulldogs need to collect themselves.
- South Carolina 16, Georgia 11 (7:39): It’s now nine turnovers for Georgia, which is making some sloppy passes. South Carolina is playing very hard on the defensive end, making everything tough. The Bulldogs need to either a) calm down and run some inside-out sets through Maten, or b) get the ball to Frazier and Gaines for 3s and hope they go in. Right now the half-court offense is kind of in between those two, and just looks discombobulated.
- South Carolina 13, Georgia 6 (9:20): Turtle Jackson is getting some early minutes. It’s partly because of Gaines’ foul trouble, but probably also to try to get some sort of spark.
- South Carolina 9, Georgia 6 (11:57): Oh my, what a putrid display of basketball by both teams so far. South Carolina’s last two possessions resulted in passes caroming off the backboard. There have been a combined 11 turnovers, with South Carolina 3-for-16 from the field and Georgia 3-for-11. … Kenny Gaines is indeed back in the game for Georgia, playing with two fouls. J.J. Frazier is trying to ignite the offense, but has missed all four shots so far. Good minutes are coming once again from Kenny Paul Geno, who had a put-back lay-up and has a team-leading two rebounds.
- South Carolina 5, Georgia 2 (15:51): A very sloppy start for the Bulldogs, who have already turned it over three times and gave up four offensive rebounds on one possession. This has a little bit of the feel of the Auburn game, with Georgia maybe overconfident coming in because of the Carrera absence. Yante Maten has taken all three of Georgia’s shots, which isn’t good either. It’ll be interesting to see how long Mark Fox goes with Kenny Gaines on the bench, especially if the deficit grows.
- South Carolina 2, Georgia 0 (18:32): Kenny Gaines picked up two fouls in the game’s first 82 seconds. Both were called by referee Antonio Petty, who drew the ire of Mark Fox, and Petty gave Fox a bench warning. That caused Fox to take his suit jacket off the earliest in any game I’ve ever seen. It’s usually a second half thing. Anyway, Fox had a right to be mad about the first call, which was a very ticky-tack screen., The second was also away from the ball, with Gaines guarding in the post.
- Dissecting the Carrera absence a bit more: He actually hasn’t played that well against Georgia this year. In the first match-up, Carrera was held to 11 points, though he did have 10 rebounds and three blocks. But he shot 4-for-12 and had four turnovers and zero assists. In the second game he struggled even more, shooting 5-for-21, including 1-for-10 on 3-pointers, and again had zero assists, with five rebounds and no blocks.
- The key for Georgia now would seem to be stopping junior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who carried the Gamecocks last Saturday when they didn’t have Carrera; Thornwell poured in 22 points in a surprisingly big South Carolina victory. Thornwell had 18 points in the first game against Georgia, and 16 in the second one.
- South Carolina also dominated the boards at Arkansas, 41-26. But Georgia out-rebounded the Gamecocks in both games, including by 11 last week.
- Georgia arrived at the arena a little earlier than usual. UGA president Jere Morehead is here too – he might have been last night but I didn’t see him. Morehead and Mark Fox exchanged a warm handshake before Fox joined his team in the locker room.
- Once more, with feeling: Georgia will be trying to beat a team three times in one season for the first time since the year “The Karate Kid” came out.
- Georgia will be trying to reach the SEC semifinals for the third straight year. But Mark Fox will also be trying to win a second game in the SEC tournament for the first time at Georgia. These factoids and more in this story.
- The crowd will be an interesting dynamic tonight. Kentucky fans packed the arena for the previous game, with pockets of Alabamans – and maybe some Georgia red and South Carolina garnet. How many Kentucky fans stick around, and do they pick a side?
- The semifinals is chalk so far: The No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 seeds have advanced. Does No. 3 South Carolina make it all favorites, or does Georgia crash the party?