Lackluster night: USC adds another SEC loss to ledger

Gamecocks fall to 0-5 in league play after poor showing against Bulldogs

dcloninger@thestate.comJanuary 22, 2014 

— South Carolina is having a hard time winning basketball games.

The Gamecocks are doing great at turning previously unheard-of players into superstars.

Georgia junior forward Nemanja Djurisic scored a career-high 22 points in a 97-76 romp past the Gamecocks on Wednesday, and his three 3-pointers were part of another sterling performance. The Bulldogs’ previously suspect 3-point shooting (31.9 percent, 12th in the SEC) was a sterling 5-for-6 in its first six tries and 10-of-18 for the game.

“We had two, three, maybe four guys that really tried to play well, but we didn’t have enough,” said coach Frank Martin, who labeled the loss the low point of his USC tenure.

USC remained winless in the SEC (0-5) and fell to 7-11 overall. The Gamecocks and Auburn are the only winless teams in the league.

USC knew it would have to take care of the ball against the Bulldogs’ defense, and sometimes did (15 turnovers, 10 with the game out of reach). The Gamecocks knew they would have to shake their recent woes at defensive rebounding, and did (19 of their 27).

They couldn’t do anything about the 3-point barrage Georgia unleashed, nor Djurisic, who didn’t miss a shot from the floor. With USC’s big men again in foul trouble and unable to stay on the floor, the Bulldogs (10-7, 4-1) muscled inside for easy looks, and when USC stayed home and defended the paint, they stepped back out and shot.

The 3s rained for an early lead and, as foul trouble mounted (30 combined whistles in the first half, 59 for the game), the Gamecocks struggled. Their offense was taken out nearly from the start because there were no big men to throw the ball to, their guards were swallowed by the Bulldogs’ heavier and taller backcourt and nobody could consistently put the ball in the hole.

USC’s best bet was the free-throw line, but after beginning the game strongly, that also faltered. Georgia cracked the game open midway through the second half and USC barely finished the game after two players fouled out and four more had four fouls each.

USC had lost its previous three games by a combined 12 points before Wednesday, but the blowout to the Bulldogs might have shaken the Gamecocks.

“I think a couple of guys on our team, we’ve lost confidence,” said Sindarius Thornwell, who again led the Gamecocks with 26 points. “But we just have to work. We’ve got to move on. We’ve got to come back in tomorrow, 1:30, and get prepared for Saturday.”

Martin, disappointed at the lack of intensity and toughness by his defense, put it more succinctly. Asked if he thought he’d lost the team, Martin shrugged.

“Guys don’t want to take advantage of the opportunity they have, that their school is giving them a scholarship to play basketball, they can play somewhere else,” Martin said. “They don’t need to stay in school here.”

He further added that he’s still excited to be at USC, building the program he knows it can be. The only place he’d leave for is, maybe, if his old high school was hiring, but otherwise, he planned to be with the Gamecocks.

Martin hopes his players are along for the ride.

“I’m really not concerned with losing them,” Martin said. “They better hope they don’t lose me.”

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SOUTH CAROLINA (7-11)

Henry 0-5 1-2 1, Carrera 0-3 0-0 0, Thornwell 8-12 9-12 26, Williams 6-11 2-2 18, Notice 4-6 6-10 14, Shaw 2-5 6-6 12, Chatkevicius 1-3 0-2 2, Theus Jr. 0-1 0-2 0, Kacinas 0-0 0-0 0, Ringer 0-0 0-0 0, Steele 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 22-48 24-36 76.

GEORGIA (10-7)

Thornton 3-5 6-9 12, Williams 3-4 3-6 9, Morris 4-6 5-9 13, Mann 2-5 4-4 10, Gaines 3-10 6-6 14, Parker 2-4 0-0 5, Dixon 0-0 0-0 0, Echols 1-2 0-0 3, Forte 1-1 1-3 3, Young 0-0 0-0 0, Kessler 0-0 0-0 0, Geno 1-1 0-0 2, Frazier 1-5 0-0 3, Cannon 0-0 1-2 1, Djurisic 6-6 7-11 22. Totals 27-49 33-50 97.

Halftime_Georgia 45-34. 3-Point Goals_South Carolina 8-14 (Williams 4-7, Shaw 2-3, Thornwell 1-1, Steele 1-2, Notice 0-1), Georgia 10-18 (Djurisic 3-3, Mann 2-4, Gaines 2-5, Parker 1-1, Echols 1-2, Frazier 1-3). Fouled Out_Chatkevicius, Kacinas, Mann. Rebounds_South Carolina 27 (Carrera, Chatkevicius 6), Georgia 39 (Williams 10). Assists_South Carolina 8 (Thornwell 4), Georgia 21 (Morris 5). Total Fouls_South Carolina 33, Georgia 26. Attendance: 5,366.

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