Georgia has found a way to win all season while missing key players, but this was the first time the Bulldogs had to do it without senior forward Marcus Thornton.
Finally, this was an injury Georgia couldn’t overcome.
South Carolina snapped Georgia’s five-game win streak with a 67-50 victory Saturday at Colonial Life Arena.
“It was obvious that without Thornton we were totally disjointed,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We never could settle down and find a rhythm.”
Thornton, a Westlake High product, is out indefinitely after he suffered a concussion during Georgia’s 70-62 victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday. The Bulldogs won without Juwan Parker (Achilles) and Kenny Paul Geno (wrist), but losing Thornton was the biggest blow because he leads them in points and rebounds.
The Bulldogs (14-6, 5-3 SEC) couldn’t make up for all of that missing production against the Gamecocks (11-9, 2-6).
“(Thornton) is not only our leading scorer and rebounder, he’s our team leader,” Fox said. “I was very disappointed in our leadership today. I thought we filled the rebounding void, but not the leadership void. That’s not to take anything away from South Carolina. They deserved to win.”
Georgia freshman Yante Maten, who started in place of Thornton, had three points and six rebounds before fouling out, and reserve forward Houston Kessler had two points and four rebounds. Georgia’s guard trio of J.J. Frazier, Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann combined to shoot 7-for-28 from the field.
Even without Thornton the Bulldogs had a 42-33 advantage in rebounds. But Georgia made only 11 of 50 field-goal attempts (22 percent), including 3 of 17 on 3-point attempts.
“We were able to get pressure on the ball, guard the ball at the half-court line and make them run their offense far away rather than let them get into their rhythm,” South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell. “It was a great effort from all of us.”
South Carolina led 33-24 at halftime with 15 of those points coming off seven Bulldogs turnovers. The Bulldogs missed eight of their first nine field-goal attempts in the second half before pulling within 44-36.
But a technical foul on Fox started a surge by the Gamecocks.
Fox was penalized after he walked to midcourt to point and yell at officials following a loose-ball foul called against Nemanja Djurisic. Tyrone Johnson made both free throws for the technical foul, and Michael Carrera made one of two free-throw attempts on the foul call.
Thornwell rebounded Carrera’s miss, and Laimonas Chatkevicius scored on a hook shot to push South Carolina’s lead to 49-36 with less than 10 minutes to play. The Bulldogs never cut the lead to less than 10 points from there, and South Carolina’s lead swelled to as many as 18.
Fox declined to comment on the technical foul.
“If I had a little different contract I might address that,” Fox said. “It’s part of the game.”
The Gamecocks ended a five-game losing streak to Georgia, which had won eight of the previous nine meetings. South Carolina plays at Georgia on Feb. 17.
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