Billy Humphrey put back a clanged 3-pointer from Levi Stukes with 26 seconds left to lift the Bulldogs past South Carolina 48-47. The victory ended a three-game losing streak for Georgia (15-11, 5-8 SEC).
“All I was thinking is, ‘We’re down one. Anything I throw up is good,’” Humphrey said.
Humphrey was suspended from the Bulldogs’ last game for violating team rules.
“I guess it was like an apology to our fans and our team and our coaching staff,” he said.
Mike Mercer, also suspended from last weekend’s game, led Georgia with 11 points.
“I wanted to show my team I wasn’t here to have a negative effect,” he said. “I want to have a positive effect.”
A Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 5,785 and a national television audience on ESPN watched game, which left Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt tied for fourth place in the SEC East.
The fact that Mercer led his team with such a middling output illustrates how the game was played. The teams combined to shoot 6-of-35 (17 percent) from 3-point range and 40-of-103 (39 percent) overall.
“I know for our part, I thought it was a very dazzling display (of defense),” Coach Dennis Felton said. “It could very easily be our best defensive effort of the season.”
Georgia swiped 13 steals from the Gamecocks (14-12, 5-8) and forced 21 turnovers overall. South Carolina shot 23 percent in a first half in which it scored just 16 points and shot 36 percent for the game. It was the Gamecocks’ season-high for turnovers and season-low for points.
“That’s what the SEC is all about, we’re just a rugged conference,” Mercer said. “We’re all about defense and not necessarily scoring. If you want scoring, you can go to the ACC for that.”
The difference in the game turned out to be the one free throw the Bulldogs’ shot. While Georgia was 1-for-1 from the line, South Carolina shot 13 free throws and made eight of them. Asked about the discrepancy, Felton said, “I have no reaction.”
Sundiata Gaines had 10 points for the Bulldogs, who survived a 1-for-10 shooting night from leading scorer Stukes. The junior’s two points were his fewest since Jan. 28, 2004, his freshman season.
The Gamecocks, who outrebounded Georgia 38-28, had three chances to win the game after Humphrey’s basket. First, Tre Kelley had a driving layup blocked by Younes Idrissi. Kelley got the ball back but subsequently turned it over with less than three seconds remaining.
All Georgia had to do from there was inbound the ball, but Kevin Brophy’s pass intended for Stukes was defended by Brandon Wallace and bounced out of bounds off Stukes. Renaldo Balkman got a good look from 17 feet with 1.2 seconds remaining, but it bounced off the back of the rim.
“I think what we saw tonight was two teams that played hard, but it wasn’t a pretty game,” South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. “We were tight. We couldn’t pass or shoot.”