COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Justin McKie stood at the free throw line, much like his famous father BJ, ready to keep No. 19 South Carolina on track for more Southeastern Conference success.
Was the younger McKie thinking about his dad’s old team 20 years ago that went on to win the Gamecocks only SEC title?
Not at all.
“I was thinking, `We’ve got to go win this game. They already did it,”‘ said McKie, who swished two foul shots in the final seconds to lock up South Carolina’s 77-75 victory over Georgia on Saturday.
The win keeps the Gamecocks (19-4, 9-1) tracking another title run like the one led by the elder McKie, South Carolina’s all-time leading scorer, in 1997.
South Carolina seemed to have things in hand, up 67-58 with 3:15 to go after McKie’s 3-pointer. Georgia, though, used a 15-8 run over the next 3 minutes to cut the lead to 75-73 with 9 seconds to go – and give the McKie family the chance to shine in a big spot once more.
Justin McKie did not disappoint.
“Who’s at the line shooting two but another McKie?” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “It’s kind of neat.”
Especially when you consider what could be ahead for the Gamecocks, who guaranteed themselves no worse than a tie for the top heading into next week.
“This really means a lot,” South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell said.
PJ Dozier scored seven of his 21 points in the final 2:21, Thornwell had 18 points and Duane Notice 15 for South Carolina’s second straight win over Georgia after going 0-3 vs. the Bulldogs last season.
J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten had 18 points apiece for Georgia.
For the Bulldogs, it was a second straight disappointing road loss to a ranked opponent. They led in the final minute at No. 8 Kentucky before falling in overtime, 90-81 last Tuesday.
“As a competitor, I don’t like to lose. I’m frustrated,” Frazier said. “But we don’t have any choice but to put it behind us.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Georgia: The Bulldogs carried over their strong play in an overtime loss at Kentucky, making seven straight shots to keep in things in the opening half. They also enjoyed edges in rebounding (36-28) and made foul shots (22-14).
South Carolina: The Gamecocks hoped to get off to a fast start, yet had trouble keeping up with Georgia’s inside strength. South Carolina forwards Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva each spent time on the bench with two fouls. That can’t continue if the Gamecocks hope to remain in the SEC chase.
The Gamecocks improved to 9-1 in the SEC, their second-best start since going 10-0 in 1997. That group went 15-1 to take the league crown, but its lone loss was to the Bulldogs. South Carolina’s most difficult stretch left could be at Vanderbilt and at No. 24 Florida in consecutive games in two weeks.
STRUGGLES IN THE PAINT
South Carolina saw both of its primary post players in Silva and Kotsar foul out against Georgia. The two picked up two first-half fouls and played only 17 of a possible 40 minutes. While Kotsar had seven points and six rebounds in the second half, the 6-foot-9 Silva finished with zero rebounds for just the second game of the sophomore’s college career.
Georgia hosts No. 24 Florida on Tuesday night.
South Carolina finishes a two-game home stand with Alabama on Tuesday night.