A’ja Wilson powers (5) Gamecocks past Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — With South Carolina struggling on offense, A’ja Wilson took over.
Wilson scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds to help the No. 5 Gamecocks beat Georgia 62-44 on Thursday night. The All-America forward missed the first meeting two weeks ago with an ankle injury. South Carolina won that game by three points.
It was the lowest point total of the season for South Carolina (18-1, 8-0 SEC) this season. The Gamecocks’ previous low came in their 74-63 loss at Duke in early December.
Despite a disappointing offensive night, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was pleased with the Gamecocks’ defensive effort, which included 30 defensive rebounds, 10 steals and eight blocked shots.
“We played the entire 40 minutes, but it was an ugly game,” Staley said. “From a defensive standpoint I thought what we did was tremendous. We had very little lapses, we contested shots and we won the hustle-play battles. When you can get that kind of effort and hold a team to 44 points, you’re doing your job. I just thought that offensively we didn’t take advantage of some things.”
Allisha Gray added 18 points for South Carolina, which won its 12th consecutive game and is the only team unbeaten in the SEC after its win over No. 4 Mississippi State on Monday.
Pachis Roberts and Mackenzie Engram led Georgia (10-10, 2-5) with 10 points each. No other players for either team reached double-digit scoring.
After trailing by as many as 18 points for 31 minutes, Georgia got close with 7:45 left in the game when Halle Washington’s layup made it 37-33. But South Carolina’s Wilson took control of the situation, scoring nine points in the last seven minutes to give the Gamecocks some cushion.
“I wouldn’t call it a takeover role,” Wilson said. “I call it letting the game come to me and doing what’s good for the team.”
Both teams shot poorly from the field Thursday. South Carolina made just 35 percent from the field (20 for 57) while Georgia shot 37 percent (20 for 54). The big difference in the game came at the foul line, where the Gamecocks made 17 of 31 attempts to Georgia’s 3 of 8, and on the glass, where South Carolina had 45 rebounds to Georgia’s 38.
“It was the difference in both games,” Georgia coach Joni Taylor said. “In the first game, I think they went to the line 22 times and we outrebounded them. This game, they went to the line 31 times, which was more than I expected and they outrebounded us. We can’t give them free points — (or) to anybody for that matter, in this league.”
Georgia has now lost three consecutive games and has dropped eight of its last 10.
“We got off to a really good start,” Taylor, who recently suffered an Achilles injury and coached from a wheeled cart, said. “We executed the game plan on both ends of the floor, but when you play a good team like South Carolina, you can’t turn the ball over and you can’t send them to the line 31 times. Every time we made a run and got it close, they made a run, too.”
South Carolina: Won its 12th consecutive game and is a cinch to move up in the top 25 rankings after defeating No.4 Mississippi State on Monday. The Gamecocks’ only loss of the season came Dec. 4 at now-No. 14 Duke.
Georgia: After getting early SEC victories over Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs have dropped four consecutive league games.
South Carolina: Will head home to face Tennessee on Monday night and then travel to Kentucky next Thursday.
Georgia: Played South Carolina twice in the last 16 days, so it might seem like a relief to get on the road to Ole Miss on Sunday and Arkansas next Thursday to face a couple of the SEC’s lightly-lauded teams.