COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — In the midst of a five-game losing streak, South Carolina coach Frank Martin told his point guards that nothing was going to change unless they started playing better.
Three games later, Martin is praising his ball handlers, especially after the Gamecocks hit 13 3-pointers to beat Georgia 66-57 on Wednesday night.
Wesley Myers led South Carolina (15-13, 6-9 Southeastern Conference) with 15 points, all on 3s, and starting point guard Hassani Gravett had eight points and five assists.
“When your point guards play better, your team plays better,” said Martin, whose Gamecocks have won two of three since he challenged his point men.
The Gamecocks ended the first half on a 13-3 run to take a 15-point lead at the break.
Georgia (5-12, 6-9) scored on six straight possessions early in the second half, but then suddenly went sloppy and cold. The Bulldogs committed three offensive fouls and turned the ball over twice after cutting the deficit to 47-40.
Georgia also made just three of its next 14 shots, but trailed just 58-50 because South Carolina was shooting poorly. The Gamecocks shot just 8-of-33 in the second half, but five of their made shots were 3s
The Gamecocks also played their cleanest game of the season with just five turnovers. Georgia turned the ball over 17 times.
“When you dig that kind of hole, you have to play almost perfect to get out of it. And we didn’t do it,” Bulldogs coach Mark Fox said.
Chris Silva also scored 15 points for South Carolina despite playing just 19 minutes with foul trouble.
William Jackson II led Georgia with 14 points. Yante Maten added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Gamecocks shot 31 percent (21 of 68) from the field. They beat Georgia 64-57 on Jan. 13 shooting just 27 percent.
Georgia: Two wins in a row had the Bulldogs looking like they could crawl back on the NCAA Tournament bubble. But a bad loss and a season sweep now by South Carolina has Georgia a lot closer to playing on the opening day of the SEC tournament than in the NCAAs. The Bulldogs are now tied for 10th in the SEC with South Carolina and Texas A&M.
South Carolina: It’s a longshot, but the Gamecocks might be able to sneak back in the NCAA Tournament a year after making it to the Final Four last season. South Carolina finishes the season at Mississippi State, at home with LSU and at Auburn. Win two of those and make a run in the SEC tournament could pull South Carolina into the NCAAs on the back of the one of the deepest leagues in history.
South Carolina made more 3-pointers (13) than free throws (11) or two-point baskets (8).
The Gamecocks got just 25 points from their starters and 41 points off the bench.
But Martin said he is fine with whatever happened because of one thing.
“It’s late February. You get a home win against a conference opponent, you take it and you run with it,” Martin said.
Fox stuck to what he said earlier in the season that he thought 9-9 in the SEC should be good enough to get his team an at-large NCAA bid. Now the Bulldogs will have to win their last three to get there.
But Fox also pointed out that the selection committee keeps shifting criteria. Georgia finished 12-6 and tied for second in the SEC in 2014 and got left out for reasons the coach said he never understood.
“Our hope will be we can get to 9-9 and have that opportunity,” Fox said. “But we’ve got to worry about just winning the next game right now.”
Georgia: The Bulldogs host LSU on Saturday.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are at Mississippi State.
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