COLUMBIA, S.C. — Courtney Newton finally had the game she always wanted at South Carolina. And the Gamecocks got the breakthrough win they had chased all season.
Newton shot 5 of 5 on 3-pointers and finished with 16 points as the Gamecocks (12-9, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) ended No. 20 Georgia’s seven-game winning streak with a 57-48 victory Thursday night.
Newton was a highly regarded player at Flowery Branch High, who hoped to flourish at South Carolina.
Instead, she’s undergone three knee surgeries in college, which ended her seasons in 2008 and 2010. Newton, who wears a heavy brace on her right knee, had slowly worked her way back into coach Dawn Staley’s starting lineup.
“As a player, you work hard and you want to be on the court and you want to help your team win,” Newton said. “I’m glad I got to do that for my team.”
Newton had scored only 13 points all season and was just 3 of 16 from behind the arc. That changed dramatically against the Lady Bulldogs (16-4, 6-1).
She tied the game at 21-all with her first one, then gave South Carolina the lead for good, 34-31, with her third long-range basket. Newton’s next one extended the lead after Georgia had gotten within 43-41.
After her final one, from the left corner, Newton turned and ran back up the sideline with her arm extended in celebration.
“I’m really happy for her because she’s worked her tail off with her surgeries,” Staley said. “You want to see that work pay off in something tangible.”
The Gamecocks had been 0-5 against ranked opponents before this one.
Georgia coach Andy Landers said he and his team were aware of Newton’s potential from the outside. Still, he said breakdowns with the defense led to three of those crucial baskets.
“She was terrific,” Landers said. “Any time, you go five for five from three, that’s bingo. That’s money.”
Jasmine James had 15 points to lead Georgia, which was held to its lowest point total of the season.
Georgia struggled with its shooting. It shot 34.5 percent for the game and missed all seven of its 3-point attempts. Khaalidah Miller was 1 of 6 and Meredith Mitchell was 3 of 9.
Porsha Phillips was Georgia’s only other player in double figures with 10 points.
La’Keisha Sutton added 12 points and Ashley Bruner 10 for South Carolina.
Phillips, a 45 percent shooter, made only 3 of 9 attempts. Starting guards James and Mitchell were a combined 3 of 11 from the field.
Georgia finished with 23 points, a season low for the opening half.
South Carolina got 3-pointers by Newton and Ieasia Walker in the last 3 minutes to take a 25-23 lead into the break.
Things didn’t get much better for Georgia in the second half. James scored the first six points for the Lady Bulldogs to tie the game at 29-all. Phillips’ basket tied the game again at 31 before Newton and the Gamecocks took control.
Newton said she never gave up on the game despite her disappointment because of injuries.
Staley told Newton during pre-game shootaround her primary role was to play defense and box out. “But I also know I can shoot the ball,” Newton said. “So when I got the opportunity, I had to be ready.”