Story by Matt Smith
South Carolina looked determined to feature its seniors in the final career home game for Chris Silva, Hassani Gravett and Tre Campbell. The strategy paid off as the Gamecocks’ trio combined for 39 first-half points on the way to a 66-46 win over Georgia, Saturday.
The victory means the Gamecocks (16-15, 11-7) have clinched a fourth-place finish in the SEC’s regular season standings, and perhaps more importantly, a double-bye in next week’s conference tournament.
The Gamecocks ran their offense through Silva on the first three trips, netting a basket and two foul shots. Gravett and Campbell got into the act
soon thereafter, by knocking down two 3-pointers, apiece. Gravett and Campbell finished with 12 points and 11 points, respectively. Silva, as has become his habit, led the Gamecocks with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals. Nineteen of Silva’s 24 points came in the first half, sparking his team to a 44-21 advantage.
Georgia’s offense was uneven throughout the game, committing 18 turnovers. A cluster of those turnovers helped South Carolina take control of the game with a 12-0 run to close the first half. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, played with discipline and committed only one turnover before intermission.
Afterwards, Frank Martin was quick to point out the importance of the three seniors, especially Silva, “Have you ever seen him have a bad day in this building? He’s special. Loyalty, work ethic, commitment. He doesn’t take those words for granted. He’s given his heart and soul to help this place.”
Georgia trimmed the lead to 10 in the second half as South Carolina went cold from the field. At one point, South Carolina hit just 1 of 15 shots over an eight-minute stretch. A series of free throws kept the Bulldogs at arms’ length before Keyshawn Bryant’s emphatic dunk put the Gamecocks back up 14. Bryant finished with 14 points despite being whistled for two early fouls. Nicolas Claxton led Georgia with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
With regard to his team’s postseason prospects, Martin said, “Why don’t we start talking about this league fairly? For a team to be 11-7 in this conference, with this strength of schedule … I’m willing to put this team against any of those teams on the bubble. We’ve got more Quad 1 and Quad 2 wins than 13 of the 15 teams on the bubble. Why do I have to do that research? If you take Wyoming and USC Upstate off our schedule, our strength of schedule is top-10.”
Martin continued, “If I scheduled the way we used to schedule around here, we’d have 23 wins.”
Campbell came off the floor in the final minute to a huge ovation from the 11,927 in attendance. Moments later, Silva and Gravett, members of a Final Four team, exited their final home game together.
South Carolina will open SEC Tournament play Friday, 25 minutes after the 1 p.m. game concludes (ESPN). Freshman AJ Lawson, according to Martin, will likely be ready to play.
Frank Martin postgame comments: