Gaines, Frazier lead Georgia to 74-72 victory
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) When Georgia coach Mark Fox heard some of his players say the Bulldogs were desperate for a win at South Carolina, he quickly corrected them.
''I told them I hate that word and I don't want to hear it anymore,'' Fox said. ''That means you're panicked. We didn't need to panic, we needed to be determined.''
Georgia certainly was down the stretch of its 74-72 victory over the Gamecocks on Thursday night.
The Bulldogs (16-12, 9-8 Southeastern Conference) got 20 points from Kenny Gaines and a near triple-double (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) from J.J. Frazier to sweep South Carolina (23-7, 10-7) this season.
''We needed some determination after they made their run,'' Fox said.
Georgia closed the game with a 14-9 burst in the final four minutes after South Carolina led 63-60. Frazier's driving bank shot put the Bulldogs up for good with 2:43 left. His dead-on 3-pointer 90 seconds later gave Georgia a 69-63 lead the Gamecocks could not overcome.
''We're going to find a way to get it done,'' Frazier said.
Yante Maten had 13 points for Georgia.
The Gamecocks were once certain locks for the NCAA tournament, but they've lost four of their past six.
"We haven't really talked about the NCAA tournament,'' South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell said. ''Our focus is on the SEC tournament'' next week.
The Gamecocks had hoped to gain a top-four seed and two extra days off in SEC play. Instead, they'll need to win at Arkansas on Saturday - South Carolina is 3-5 in SEC road games - and hope for the right results when Vanderbilt faces Texas A&M and LSU plays Kentucky.
Mindaugas Kacinas had 21 points to lead South Carolina. Thornwell finished with 16 points. Leading scorer Michael Carrera had 13 points on 5-of-21 shooting in his final home game.
Georgia built a nine-point lead until the Gamecocks went on a 21-7 run to pull in front 55-50. Georgia's defense and shooting kicked in once more, Gaines hitting a 3-pointer that tied things once again.
South Carolina came in with a puncher's chance at a share of the SEC crown and started strongly as Kacinas hit two 3-pointers on the way to an 8-2 lead. But the Bulldogs gradually found holes in the Gamecocks defense and took full advantage with a 28-14 surge to pull in front 30-22.
Gaines did about everything he wanted in the first 20 minutes with 14 points, surpassing his season average of 13.5.
Carrera struggled to find his stroke in the opening half as he made just 3 of 13 shots from the field. He missed all five of his attempts from behind the arc. It didn't get much better after the break and he ended 1 of 10 on long-range shooting.
South Carolina lost for just the second time at home this season.
Georgia: The Bulldogs are No. 1 - in strength of schedule, at least. Georgia wound up with the top spot among 351 Division I programs in the most recent edition of the NCAA's RPI.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks came into the game second in the SEC in defensive rebound percentage (70.8 percent) with 782 defensive rebounds compared with 332 offensive rebounds by opponents this season. Only Vanderbilt has a better percentage in the league this season.
The Bulldogs clinched a .500 or better mark in the SEC for the fourth straight season, a first in program history. ''It's never happened,'' Georgia coach Mark Fox said when asked how much the milestone means. ''I'm very proud of these kids.''
If you're looking for a difference, just check the foul line: Georgia made 23 of 27 attempts, South Carolina just 13 of 16. Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said Michael Carrera and Sindarius Thornwell played the whole game at the rim, yet did not score. Both Gamecocks took just two foul shots.
Georgia closes the regular season against Alabama on Saturday.
South Carolina travels to Arkansas on Saturday.