COLUMBIA, S.C.— South Carolina showed the courage to finish that coach Frank Martin had been seeking since Southeastern Conference play began.
Martin said earlier this week after a loss at LSU that his Gamecocks needed a player to make critical plays that win games. That happened Saturday as South Carolina ended Georgia's five-game win streak and snapped a four-game losing string of its own in a 67-50 victory.
"Coach said today we had some guts to pull it out," said Michael Carrera, who led the Gamecocks with nine rebounds.
Laimonas Chatkevicius scored 12 points and Duane Notice had 11 to lead South Carolina (11-9, 2-6 SEC). Tyrone Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell had 10 points each as the Gamecocks won for just the second time since defeating then-No. 9 Iowa State in Brooklyn, New York on Jan. 3.
Martin acknowledged how that win skewed his team's outlook and changed the focus on winning instead of playing solid, effective basketball. That has reversed itself over the past week, despite losses to No. 1 Kentucky and at LSU (64-58) this past Wednesday. "I think we're back in a healthy place," the coach said.
Georgia played without leading scorer and rebounder Marcus Thornton, a senior out with a concussion. Still, the Bulldogs (14-6, 5-3) cut a 15-point lead down to 44-36 on Charles Mann's two foul shots with 11:01. The rally, though, faded after Georgia coach Mark Fox walked onto the court to yell at officials and received a technical.
Johnson hit two foul shots, Carrera made the first and missed the second free throw. But Thornwell got the rebound and eventually found Chatkevicius for a basket to stretch the lead to 49-36.
"If I had a little different contract, I might address that," Fox said. "Part of the game."
Johnson said the sequence gave the Gamecocks a boost of confidence they could finish things out successfully. "It gave us another turning point," he said.
Georgia made just four field goals in the second half and finished 11 of 50 (22 percent) shooting for the game.
J.J. Frazier led Georgia with 16 points, 11 of them from the foul line.
Chatkevicius, the 6-foot-11 center, had scored only eight points his previous three games. He also added three blocks.
Georgia's chance to continue its streak took a major hit on Friday when it said when Thornton, averaging 13.5 points and 7.3 rebounds, wouldn't play because of a concussion. The Gamecocks took advantage of the Bulldogs reduced presence in the paint to build a 13-6 lead over the first seven minutes.
After Kenny Gaines hit a 3 — just Georgia's third field goal of the first 10 minutes — the Gamecocks answered with an 18-7 run to move in front.
Chatkevicius had seven points in the surge and Carrera had a dunk and foul shot the Gamecocks led 31-16 with 2:26 left in the half.
Georgia found its range at the end, outscoring the Gamecocks 9-2 the rest of the way. J.J. Frazier, 1 of 3 from the field, made six foul shots in that stretch to cut into South Carolina's lead.
Georgia: Bulldogs held on in tight games during winning streak: Four of its five straight victories came by eight points or fewer. South Carolina never let them close in.
South Carolina: Gamecocks guard Thornwell has had success against Georgia, combing for 54 points his past three games with the Bulldogs. Thornwell was a combined 20-of-26 from the foul line in those contests.
SOUTH CAROLINA INJURIES
Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said starter Demetrius Henry, out with a concussion, would see limited action at practice, yet is close to returning for the Gamecocks. Reserve guard Justin McKie, also dealing with a concussion, is further away from a return.
WHO'S AT HOME?
Despite the location, the visiting Bulldogs had a decided advantage at the foul line. Georgia made 25 of 32 foul shots, including 18 of 23 in the second half, while the Gamecocks were 17 of 21.
Georgia is at No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday night.
South Carolina is at Arkansas on Tuesday night.