South Carolina takes down Georgia 57-56By PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)—Malik Cooke knew he had to make a play and Damontre Harris knew he had to get a block. Both followed through perfectly and South Carolina got the win it badly needed.
Cooke scored 13 points, including the go-ahead basket with 19 seconds left and Harris blocked a layup attempt by Georgia’s Gerald Robinson Jr. to save the Gamecocks 57-56 victory Wednesday night—ending a five-game losing streak that stretched more than three weeks.
“We really were just tired of losing,” said Cooke, South Carolina’s only senior. “We just want to try and start a win streak.”
The Gamecocks (10-15, 2-9 Southeastern Conference) overcame a seven-point deficit in the second half, capped by a wild finish at the Colonial Life Arena.
Bruce Ellington had the chance to extend South Carolina’s lead after Harris’ big block, but missed his foul shot. That gave the Bulldogs one last chance. However, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was too strong on his 3-pointer and Cooke got his hands on the rebound.
There was a tie-up call and Georgia (12-13, 3-8) got 0.2 seconds to pull off a miracle. But the 6-foot-9 Harris got a piece of Connor Notle’s inbounds pass and the ball went harmlessly off the side of the backboard to end the game.
Harris ended with five blocks, to go along with his 9 points and eight rebounds.
“Coach (Darrin) Horn knows I’m pretty good at blocking shots,” Harris said.
Robinson led Georgia with 11 points.
Brenton Williams had 10 points and Harris finished with 9 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. None were bigger than his swat down of Robinson, who looked like he was on his way to putting Georgia back in front.
“I have to give South Carolina credit,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I thought they played a little hungrier than we did tonight.”
The Bulldogs appeared to take control midway through the second half when Caldwell-Pope’s two foul shots gave them a 46-39 lead with 9:11 to go.
Cooke, though, got South Carolina’s rally started with a jumper and Ellington followed with a 3-pointer for his first basket of the game.
South Carolina tied it at 48-all on Cooke’s basket with 5:09 to go. The game was tied twice more before Robinson gave Georgia it’s final lead with three with 41.8 seconds left and set up the final frantic moments.
“It probably goes without saying that this, for the sake of our team, was an important game,” said Horn, the fourth-year coach under fire from fans for South Carolina’s last-place showing so far in the SEC.
Robinson was Georgia’s only player in double figures. Caldwell-Pope ended with 9 points, five fewer than his average, on 3-of-12 shooting, including 1 of 7 from three-point range.
Georgia had won two in a row over Arkansas and a ranked Mississippi State team in overtime last Saturday. The Bulldogs hoped to carry that momentum into the Colonial Life Arena against a Gamecock struggling for any positives.
Yet, Georgia couldn’t get much going early on. Leading scorer Caldwell-Pope was 1 of 4 for the half, missing all three of his attempts from behind the arc. The Bulldogs ended the period 9 of 29 (31 percent).
South Carolina, meanwhile, found a bit of life thanks to freshman guard Brenton Williams.
Georgia was up 21-20 on Caldwell-Pope’s jumper when Williams struck for two straight 3-pointers that brought the sparse crowd at the CLA to their feet.
South Carolina built a 28-23 lead right before the break—remember last year in this contest the Gamecocks trailed 28-9—when Dustin Ware drained a fade away three as time ran out.
The Gamecocks leading scorer, Ellington, also had some shooting problems. He was 0 of 3 overall and missed his two three-point attempts. The sophomore guard also left the game for a time in the first half after spraining a toe on his right foot. He returned a short while later and played 15 minutes of the half.
South Carolina hit 14 of 15 foul shots, Ellington’s miss at the end the only shot off the mark.
Cooke played for Fox when both were at Nevada. Cooke transferred to the Gamecocks to be closer to his family in Charlotte, N.C. The two have a good relationship, Cooke said, and he didn’t think at all that he was beating his former coach. “I just wanted to get a win for South Carolina,” Cooke said. “That’s what was in my mind.”