COLUMBIA, S.C. - Malik Cooke scored on a driving layup with 20 seconds left to lift South Carolina past Georgia 57-56 and end the Bulldogs' brief, 2-game SEC win streak here Wednesday night.
Georgia (12-13, 3-8) was unable to capitalize on three subsequent possessions after Cooke's winning basket. The Bulldogs' Gerald Robinson first drove court-length for a layup that was blocked by Damontre Harris and rebounded by Bruce Ellington. After Ellington missed a 1-and-1 free throw, Georgia again failed to convert when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope misfired on a 3-point shot with three seconds left.
Still, the Bulldogs benefited from a held-ball change of possession after Carolina (10-15, 2-9) had rebounded the miss with two-tenths of a second left. Time expired, however, when Connor Nolte's inbounds pass was deflected.
Georgia's futility in the final 20 seconds was indicative of its game-long struggles against the Gamecocks. "I thought we didn't play very well tonight and certainly you have to credit South Carolina for that," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "We've done a very good job of taking care of the basketball all season long, except that tonight we didn't, particularly in the second half. It cost us."
Twice in this game the Bulldogs built 7-point leads and each time Carolina responded quickly. In the first half, Georgia scored eight consecutive points, capped by a Dustin Ware trey at the 9:01 mark, to take a 16-7 advantage. Over the next 2 1/2 minutes, the Gamecocks evened the score on a 3-point play from Harris and consecutive dunks by RJ Slawson.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from reserve Sherrard Brantley, followed by two foul shots by Caldwell-Pope, got the Bulldogs another 7-point lead at 46-39 with 9:10 left. Carolina forced turnovers on Georgia's next two trips and eventually fought back to a 48-all tie on Cooke's jumper at the 5:08 mark.
From there, the lead changed hands three more times and the score tied twice more. Georgia's last lead came at 56-55 on a Robinson 3-pointer with 42 seconds left, setting up Cooke's game-winner on the next possession for Carolina.