Gamecocks fade down the stretch again in loss to Dawgs

South Carolina (12-9, 2-6 SEC) fell to the Georgia Bulldogs 67-56 (10-11, 4-4 SEC) at the Colonial Life Arena on Saturday in SEC play.

Freshman forward Michael Carrera led Carolina in scoring for the second straight game with 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Gamecocks and Bulldogs were evenly matched in the first half, switching leads 12 times. Carrera led Carolina in scoring with 15 of South Carolina’s 30 points in the opening half, while he also grabbed three steals in the set, a career high for the freshman.

In the first two minutes, UGA’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope put up his first 3-pointer of the game, leading off the scoring for the Bulldogs. He continued in the first half to contribute 16 points and four rebounds. The Gamecocks held off Caldwell-Pope in the second half limiting him to only three points, finishing the game with a team high 19 points and seven rebounds.

After Georgia got out to a 20-16 lead, the Gamecocks stole the momentum with 7:08 left in the half on the play of Carrera. After a 3-pointer by Caldwell-Pope, Carrera answered with a jumper from the paint and sank a rare 3 that fired up the crowd and gave the Gamecocks a 21-20 advantage. To cap the 7-0 run, Carrera fed the ball inside to Bruce Ellington for a layup to make the score 23-20. The two teams traded leads until Mindaugas Kacinas put together a three-point play with 30 seconds left to give the Gamecocks a 30-29 advantage at the half.

Georgia’s hot shooting started the second half, giving the Bulldogs a 46-38 lead. Ellington drew the Gamecocks within two at 46-44 with a six-point stretch, starting it with a 3, his third of the game.

On the next possession, Ellington took the ball off of a big block by RJ Slawson for a layup, drawing a foul on the shot. He made the free throw to close the streak. Ellington continued to fire up the crowd throughout the second half with 14 points and two assists. Brian Richardson came out of the locker room and posted nine points in the second half for a total of 12 in the game.

Georgia was too strong for the Gamecocks to hold off in the second half, shooting 61 percent from the field (14-23), led by Kenny Gaines with 11 points. The Bulldogs’ Charles Mann iced the game with free throws down the stretch, posting 11 points and six assists on the day.

The Gamecocks travel to Kentucky Feb. 5 with tip set for 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

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