South Carolina pulls away early, beats reeling Georgia 75-59
By CHARLES ODUM
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) South Carolina credits its defense for its growing collection of double-digit Southeastern Conference wins.
Against Georgia, that defense was overwhelming.
AJ Lawson scored 20 points and South Carolina held Georgia to one field goal for the first 14 minutes to earn a runaway 75-59 win over the struggling Bulldogs on Wednesday night.
South Carolina (15-9, 7-4 SEC) earned its seventh straight win in the series, including its fourth straight in Athens.
It was South Carolina's third straight win in which it held its opponent under 60 points.
"We feel good right now on defense because we all help each other," Lawson said. "If one person gets beat he gets help on the back side."
South Carolina had 10 steals, including three by Lawson.
The Gamecocks, who have won five of their last six games, had four players score in double figures. Freshman Jermaine Couisnard had 14 points.
South Carolina led 27-5 before the Bulldogs' second field goal with less than six minutes remaining in the first half.
"They just outplayed us in every aspect of the game," said Anthony Edwards, who led Georgia with 16 points. "Every aspect of the game. That's all I can say."
Georgia (12-12, 2-9) is 13th in the 14-team SEC and has lost seven of its last eight games, including three straight.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said the dominant start against Georgia was a carryover from a 75-54 home victory over Texas A&M on Saturday.
"Obviously the way we started the game defensively was kind of piggybacking the way we played the last game defensively," Martin said.
Of the Gamecocks' seven conference wins, five have come by double figures. Their only SEC wins by fewer than 10 points were against Kentucky and Arkansas.
"We've played good ball for a while," Martin said, adding his team took consecutive road wins at Clemson and Virginia in late December.
One game after the Bulldogs topped 100 points in a 105-102 overtime loss to Alabama, they suffered their lowest scoring first half of the season. South Carolina led 38-20 at halftime, thanks to the Bulldogs' turnovers and poor shooting.
The 59 points matched Georgia's low for the season in lopsided losses to Mississippi State and Arizona State.
Rayshaun Hammonds finally gave Georgia its first field goal with 12:50 remaining in the half. The Bulldogs then suffered another seven-minute field-goal drought before Tye Fagan's basket with 5:40 remaining in the half.
South Carolina stretched its lead to 23 points, 49-26, on a three-point play by Couisnard early in the second half.
Georgia built some offensive momentum midway through the half. Donnell Gresham's four-point play cut the Gamecocks' lead to 55-41. Couisnard answered with a quick 3-pointer and South Carolina pushed the lead back over 20 points.
THE BIG PICTURE
South Carolina: The Gamecocks, who had four players score in double figures, were dominant in almost every category when winning their second straight game since losing starting F Justin Minaya to a left thumb injury. South Carolina outrebounded Georgia 45-33, including nine by Alanzo Frink, and outscored the Bulldogs 40-22 in points in the paint.
Georgia: Coach Tom Crean identified his team's poor on-ball defense as a glaring weakness following the high-scoring loss to Alabama. This loss to the Gamecocks showed there are other glaring deficiencies, including on offense where 19 turnovers were a near-constant problem. South Carolina took a lopsided 25-4 advantage in points off turnovers. The Bulldogs' previous low for first-half points was 24 against both Texas A&M and Auburn.
Edwards, the nation's top-scoring freshman with his average of 19.7 points per game, missed each of his seven 3-pointers. Edwards wasn't the only Georgia player to struggle with outside shots. Georgia made only 3 of 24 3s.
LET'S TALK ABOUT FOOTBALL
Former Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman gave Georgia fans a rare reason to cheer when he was introduced during a timeout and recognized for his role on the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl championship team. Georgia officials again appealed to football fans when coach Kirby Smart's six signees who enrolled in school early were introduced during another break.
South Carolina returns home to play Tennessee on Saturday night.
Georgia will try for its second win over Texas A&M this month when it visits the Aggies on Saturday.
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Updated February 12, 2020