GAME NOTES: The South Carolina Gamecocks entertain the Georgia Bulldogs at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday afternoon, as both teams try to make up ground in the ultra-competitive SEC.
Georgia's season as a whole has been rather disappointing at 9-11, but it has inched closer to .500 in conference play (3-4) in recent weeks by winning three of its last four games. After registering an impressive 59-52 triumph over Texas A&M last Saturday, the Bulldogs topped Auburn at home on Wednesday night, 57-49.
After a stellar 10-5 start to the campaign, South Carolina has fallen off a bit since the start of SEC play, winning just two of its seven league matchups. The Gamecocks had arguably their most difficult task to date on Wednesday night, having to travel to Gainesville to play nationally-ranked Florida, and they were thoroughly embarrassed in a 75-36 defeat.
Georgia has beaten South Carolina in four of the last five matchups to take a 50-48 lead in the all-time series.
The Bulldogs were in a back-and-forth battle with Auburn on Wednesday, and with the game tied at 43-43 with less than five minutes to play, they ripped off five straight points to take control of the game. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was once again outstanding in the win, tallying 20 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 7-of-11 from the field. Charles Mann was also impressive, netting 10 points with dishing out six assists. Overall, Georgia has the worst performing offense in the SEC, putting up just 59.2 ppg on 41.5 percent shooting from the field, but it has oftentimes been saved by a scoring defense which allows a mere 61.7 ppg, and that number dips to 55.8 over the last four outings. Caldwell-Pope (17.5 ppg) is one of the best guards in the conference, ranking second in scoring behind only Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson, and he also boasts team-highs in 3-pointers (48), free-throw percentage (.798), rebounds (6.6 rpg) and steals (2.4 spg). No other player for the Bulldogs averages in double figures, with Nemanja Djurisic (7.7 ppg) coming closest.
South Carolina had it worst offensive performance of the season in the 39- point loss to Florida earlier this week. Not only did the team shoot a paltry 31.1 percent from the field (including 2-of-14 from 3-point range), but it also committed 17 turnovers and lost the rebounding battle by a 38-24 margin. Only Michael Carrera put together a notable game with 13 points and nine rebounds, while the rest of the team combined to shoot just 8-of-36 from the field. The performance was especially disappointing for the Gamecocks because they are usually one of the more potent offensive teams in the SEC, shooting nearly 44 percent from the field for the seventh-most points per game in the league (69.8 ppg), although with that comes some struggles at the defensive end, its average yield of 67.9 ppg ranking 12th in the SEC. Brenton Williams is primarily used as a bench player, but he still leads the team with 11.0 ppg, while Bruce Ellington chips in 10.0 ppg. Carrera (9.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Lakeem Jackson (9.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, .609 FG percentage) are both solid frontcourt assets.
In terms of sheer momentum, Georgia has been playing much better than South Carolina of late, but the Bulldogs' 1-4 road record speaks for itself. The Gamecocks had a rough outing earlier in the week, but they should be able to bounce back here.
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