More than halfway through his third season, Chris Silva is a veteran at identifying the kind of performance that best defines Frank Martin’s program.
“We’re not shooting well, but we rely on our defense,” Silva said. “We’re aggressive, we’re one on the court and help each other all the time. On the offensive end, we’ve just got to execute what Coach asks us to execute. And the shots will come up.”
South Carolina beat Georgia 64-57 on a Saturday afternoon when it turned in its worst shooting performance of the season. But the Gamecocks owned the offensive glass, limited their turnovers, forced the opposition into plenty, and made enough clutch plays down the stretch.
“To me,” Silva said, “I call it South Carolina basketball.”
The Gamecocks (11-6, 2-3 SEC) weren’t a thing of beauty in handing the Bulldogs (11-5, 2-3) their first home loss since last February. They made 27 percent of their field goals, including a 6 of 26 effort in the second half. They had at least two stretches of four-plus minute FG droughts. They were held without a fast-break point.
But, as Silva alluded to, USC doesn’t have to be the Golden State Warriors to please Martin.
“Obviously,” said the sixth-year coach, “anytime you can go on the road in the league and win, it says a lot about your kids. And when you go on the road and beat a team like Georgia, as good as they are, in a sold-out environment, it says your guys did a lot of things right.”
USC never allowed UGA to take a lead. The Bulldogs pulled even on three occasions, only to be hit with a Gamecock answer. Frank Booker, who led Carolina with 17 points, broke the final tie with a wing 3-pointer with 3:14 remaining.
“We ran a play that we’ve run a thousand times,” Booker said. “I came off (a screen), Hassani (Gravett) passed me the ball. It was a great pass, and I just knew I had to hit the shot. And it helped us win the game.”
Booker added a dagger trey two minutes later to bring the advantage to nine. The Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 9,788 emptied soon thereafter.
Silva added 14 points, nine rebounds and a career-high four assists for Carolina. Gravett had 11 points and two assists.
Georgia got 25 from SEC Player of the Year candidate Yante Maten, but didn’t have enough balance against one of the better defenses in the league.
The Bulldogs became the second USC opponent in three games to shoot 35 percent or worse from the field. UGA committed 14 turnovers to Carolina’s season-low seven.
“They’re very disruptive in how they play, and they’ve done that for several years in a row,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox, who lost to Martin for a third consecutive time. “They’re very physical, and they are a hard team to pass and catch against, and you end up dribbling the ball a lot.
“This is a game where your guards have to make plays off the bounce, and we didn’t make enough of those.”
Turtle Jackson, UGA’s starting point guard, was held to nine points on 3 of 15 shooting. Take away Maten’s production and the Bulldogs went 10 of 37 from the field.
“What we didn’t want Georgia to do is play off the catch,” Martin said, echoing Fox. “We wanted them to play off the dribble. That was our thought process going in. I think, for the most part, that’s what we did. We made their guards have to score off the dribble.”
South Carolina set a season-high with 18 offensive rebounds, including 13 in the first half.
The Gamecocks next host No. 21 Kentucky on Tuesday. They’re going into that 9 p.m. tip coming off their first road win in well over a month.
Not pretty, but effective.
“I hope that gives us a little swagger,” Martin said. “That’s how South Carolina plays basketball.”
SOUTH CAROLINA (11-6): Minaya 1-4 0-0 2, Kotsar 1-10 0-0 2, Silva 3-10 8-10 14, Myers 1-4 4-6 6, Hinson 2-7 2-4 8, Cudd 0-0 0-0 0, Haase 1-8 0-0 2, Beatty 0-2 2-2 2, Booker 5-9 5-7 17, Gravett 2-5 5-6 11. Totals 16-59 26-35 64.
GEORGIA (11-5): Wilridge 0-0 0-0 0, Ogbeide 1-3 1-3 3, Maten 8-14 8-10 25, Hammonds 0-4 0-0 0, Jackson 3-15 2-4 9, Edwards 1-2 1-2 3, Claxton 0-1 0-0 0, Hightower 1-1 1-2 3, Parker 3-6 4-4 11, Crump 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 1-5 1-3 3. Totals 18-51 18-28 57.
Halftime: South Carolina 37-29. 3-Point Goals: South Carolina 6-24 (Hinson 2-3, Booker 2-5, Gravett 2-5, Minaya 0-1, Beatty 0-1, Kotsar 0-1, Myers 0-1, Silva 0-1, Haase 0-6), Georgia 3-12 (Parker 1-1, Maten 1-3, Jackson 1-7, Harris 0-1). Fouled Out: Harris, Kotsar. Rebounds: South Carolina 38 (Silva 9), Georgia 36 (Ogbeide 10). Assists: South Carolina 9 (Silva 4), Georgia 8 (Jackson 2). Total Fouls: South Carolina 24, Georgia 23. Attendance: 9,788 (10,523).