COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)South Carolina senior Maik Kotsar scored five points and drew the game-clinching charge in overtime on Wednesday as South Carolina outlasted Georgia 94-90.
The Gamecocks’ power forward, the only player remaining from their 2017 Final Four team, is quietly having an all-conference season that continued against Georgia with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Yet his biggest play was standing his ground as Bulldogs point guard Sahvir Wheeler drove the lane with less than five seconds to play in overtime and South Carolina (17-11, 9-6 SEC) nursing a two-point lead.
”I just saw him coming and I knew I had to be on help defense, and I guess I just stood there,” Kotsar said.
Wheeler plowed into him and Kotsar was rewarded with a whistle. On the inbound, Kotsar threw a baseball pass to Keyshawn Bryant, who was fouled and made two free throws for the final margin.
”That was a good win,” a relieved South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. ”That’s why when you go through the battles with players, you can’t be scared to coach them. (Kotsar) responded and took ownership and didn’t run away from it.”
Gamecocks sophomore Alanzo Frink scored a career-high 22 points as Georgia (14-14, 4-11) had no answer for South Carolina’s interior. Frink, Jalyn McCreary, Keyshawn Bryant and Kotsar helped push South Carolina to 54 points in the paint, much like the 40 they scored in a 75-59 paddling of the Bulldogs in Athens on Feb. 12.
”We don’t have the size, obviously. We didn’t play as much zone because we weren’t able to get back to it as quick,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. ”But they’re just bigger than us.”
Crean only said, ”Judgment call” when asked about the charge. It was another stinging loss in a season full of them.
The Bulldogs blew second-half leads of 12 (Alabama), 22 (Florida) and 20 (Missouri) before Wednesday. They led by three with 80 seconds to play in regulation Wednesday, and by one with 2:03 to play in overtime.
Georgia got 36 points from freshman star Anthony Edwards but little help from his teammates, only Rayshaun Hammonds (13) and Toumani Camara (10) joining him in double figures. It was nearly enough, as the Gamecocks forgot to keep targeting their bigs and let their guards (a combined 6-of-27 from the floor) shoot.
But A.J. Lawson nailed a 3-pointer, one of just three for South Carolina, with 66 seconds to go in regulation after Georgia had taken a three-point lead. Jermaine Couisnard missed a game-winning shot at the end of the period but made five free throws in overtime to keep the Gamecocks afloat.
Georgia: The Bulldogs had their two-game winning streak snapped and most likely their last remaining hope to get back on the NCAA tournament bubble. An NIT berth is still a possibility with a strong finish.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks broke a two-game losing streak and are still on the fringe of the NCAA bubble. If they can win two of three and another in the SEC tournament, they’ll be in the conversation on Selection Sunday.
The Gamecocks are one of the country’s worst teams at fouling, and at making free throws. Their games have almost always had massive discrepancies between the free throws they give and the ones they take.
Wednesday was an exception. Georgia had 30 fouls to South Carolina’s 26, and South Carolina shot three more than Georgia’s 34 free throws. But the Gamecocks also missed 14.
Bryant always seems to at least attempt to do himself one better. Known for his statuesque dunks, Bryant had two on Wednesday.
A nasty one-hander was vicious, but his two-handed jam where he bent his body into one half of a parenthesis and rammed it home over Georgia’s Mike Peake will be on the SEC Network loop for a while.
Georgia has a chance to get its confidence back with home games against Arkansas (Saturday) and Florida (March 4).
South Carolina plays at Alabama on Saturday. The Crimson Tide have won six of the past seven in the series.
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