(My apologies for the delay on this posting.)
The 2012-13 college basketball season so far has been the craziest season I can ever remember. There have been a significant number of buzzer beaters, countless overtime games and teams that look like world beaters at one moment then lose a conference game to a team much lower in the standings. And if you are the number one ranked team, well you might as well be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, because number one ranked teams have a very short shelf life.
South Carolina has not been immune to the craziness of this season. In a 75-54 win, the Gamecocks had a 32-4 first half run vs. Arkansas, the second 32-4 run I had seen a calendar year (the first was VCU against George Mason in the CAA Tournament Semifinals last March). Then in their next game last Thursday against the buzzsaw known as Florida, the Gamecocks scored a total of 36 points for the entire game in a 75-36 drubbing.
Frank Martin's team was looking to rebound against a Georgia team that also hasn't been immune to the wackiness that is the 2012-13 basketball season. The first time I saw the Bulldogs this season was on TV when they were soundly defeated at home by Youngstown State in a non conference game. The Bulldogs started the season 2-7 and later lost their first three SEC conference games. But they had won three out of their last four, including a win over Auburn, a team that beat South Carolina recently.
it was a beautiful early Saturday afternoon and as a result, over 11,000 fans came out to Colonial Life Arena to see if the Gamecocks could get a win over the Bulldogs. If you are not familiar with the arena, when you walk into the main entrance, there is a pavilion, where you can walk downstairs to get tickets or go up stairs to your seats. At the top of the stairs last Saturday were members of the dance team giving out free Gamecocks' towels. Give a kid a towel and you can be guaranteed that he or she will whip it around sometime during the game.
When I watched that game early in the season, one player stood out for the Bulldogs. Kentavius Caldwell-Pope is clearly Georgia's best player. He also happens to be their only player averaging double digits in scoring on the season. Pope wasted no time showing the South Carolina fans how good he is as he scored the Bulldogs' first five points on a three pointer and then a jumper.
While the sophomore Pope is clearly Georgia's best player, South Carolina's best player is also an underclassman. Freshman Michael Carrera has quickly become a fan favorite due to his relentless play, ability to score inside and his charisma. Carrera scored the Gamecocks' first four points, including a jumper after an offensive rebound.
The Gamecocks went up 14-13 after a Lakeem Jackson jumper. But Pope responded with one of his own to put the Bulldogs back in front. Later he would bury a three pointer to give Georgia a 20-16 lead.
But Carrera would respond with his own mini spurt. His jumper cut the lead to two. Then he hit a three pointer to put South Carolina up one. Then finally he assisted on Bruce Ellington's jumper to put the Gamecocks up three, 23-20.
However Pope would respond to this personal challenge by scoring four of the next five Georgia points to put the Bulldogs up 25-23. Of course Carrera would respond with two free throws to tie the game. And of course, Pope responded with a layup later on to put Georgia back up four 29-25.
However the Gamecocks would end the half on a 5-0 mini spurt. Carrera hit two free throws, then Mindaugas Kacinas added a three point play. South Carolina was up 30-29 at the half. Pope had sixteen of Georgia's points while Carrera had fifteen of South Carolina's points.
At halftime, while the Gamecocks tried to figure out how to stop Pope and the Bulldogs tried to figure out Carrera, there was a ceremony honoring a lot of South Carolina Men's Basketball Alumni who came out for the game. They received a very warm ovation from the crowd.
At the start of the second half, Carrera picked up right where he left off, drawing a foul and hitting one of two free throws to put South Carolina up 31-29. Little did anyone know that the free throw would be the last point he scored in the game.
Meanwhile, Kenny Gaines took it upon himself to give the Bulldogs additional scoring. He scored six of the next eight Georgia points to put the Bulldogs up 37-33. Bruce Ellington would hit a three pointer to cut the lead to one, 37-36.
But Georgia responded with a 9-1 run over the next three and a half minutes. Gaines capped the run with a three pointer to put Georgia up 46-38 with 11:48 left in the game. The TV timeout with 11:30 left couldn't have come at a better time for South Carolina.
Off the timeout, the other fan favorite, Ellington went to work. First, he a three pointer which resulted in a large BRUUUUUCE cheer from the fans. Then Ellington hit an old fashioned three pointer to cut the lead to two, 46-44 with a little under eleven minutes left in the game.
Unfortunately, the Gamecocks would not get any closer. The Bulldogs scored the next five points to go up 51-44. South Carolina would cut the lead to four twice, the second time on a Brian Richardson jumper to make the score 53-49.
But Georgia would bury two three pointers in a row, one by Sherrard Brantley, the other by Caldwell-Pope, his first and only points of the second half. The Bulldogs were up 59-49 with four and a half minutes left. The Gamecocks would get as close again as 61-56 on a Richardson three pointer. But the Bulldogs scored the last six points to win 67-56.
Caldwell-Pope led all scorers with nineteen points, but only three came in the second half. Gaines and Charles Mann each had eleven points for the Bulldogs.Georgia shot fifty eight percent for the game.
Carrera led the Gamecocks with sixteen points, but only one point came in the second half. Ellington added fourteen points and Richardson chipped in with twelve points. Brenton Williams, who had been the Gamecocks leading scorer entering the game, only had two points. South Carolina had ten more field goal attempts than Georgia. But the Gamecocks made six less field goals than the Bulldogs and only shot thirty five percent from the field.
After the first half even duel between Carrera and Pope, the Bulldogs had a better team effort in the second half than the Gamecocks. Coach Martin needs to find a way to get more output from players other than Carrera. Otherwise the Gamecocks will be hard pressed to get wins in the competitive SEC.