ATHENS — South Carolina players had every reason to see the signs of another loss as they watched a 21-point lead vanish in the second half.
This time, Tyrone Johnson said, the Gamecocks were determined to be the team that made the plays in the final minute of a close game.
Johnson and Duane Notice each scored 17 points and South Carolina recovered after blowing the big lead to beat Georgia 64-58 on Tuesday night.
Johnson said the signs appeared ominous when Georgia fought back for a 51-51 tie.
“You kind of have to think like that sometimes because we have been in this position almost all season, coming down to the last minute, us not being able to hit the shots and the other team hitting the shots, us not staying composed and having the confidence,” Johnson said.
“Today was just one of those days where we were tired of fighting in those games and losing.”
South Carolina (13-12, 4-9 Southeastern Conference) took its big lead at 34-13 and led 41-23 at halftime. The Gamecocks needed a strong finish to complete the season sweep of the Bulldogs, who never led.
Georgia (16-9, 7-6) suffered its second straight home loss to a team with a losing SEC record. Auburn beat the Bulldogs 69-68 on Saturday. The losses are damaging to the Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament hopes.
“We’ve made it harder on ourselves,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox. “We’ve got no one to blame but the person in the mirror. … We’ve got to grow up.”
Georgia recovered from the big first-half deficit and finally pulled even at 51-all on two free throws by Yante Maten.
South Carolina reclaimed the lead with a basket by Mindaugas Kacinas, who had 13 points, and Johnson’s 3-pointer. Following a driving layup by Charles Mann which cut the Gamecocks’ lead to 58-55, Notice sank another 3.
Georgia’s Kenny Gaines called the loss “horrible.”
“We have to get prepared for the game better,” said Gaines, who had 11 points. “Some of us, we weren’t ready coming out of the gate and that contributed to our slow start.”
Mann led Georgia with 17 points.
A 15-0 run gave South Carolina a 15-4 lead. Laimonas Chatkevicius, a 6-foot-11 junior from Lithuania, had three of the Gamecocks’ first four baskets.
Georgia made only one 3-pointer in the first half but found its long-shooting touch in the second half. Nemanja Djurisic, who sat out most of the first half with three fouls, including a technical, hit his first 3-pointer to cut the South Carolina’s lead to 43-33. Tyler Echols’ 3 cut the deficit to single digits at 45-36.