Dominating Silva returns as S Carolina beats Georgia 66-46
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By JEFFREY COLLINS
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) The dominating Chris Silva showed up for South Carolina on Saturday, and the Gamecocks, even with their 16-15 record, will get a double-bye again in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Silva had 24 points and 10 rebounds as South Carolina (16-15, 11-7) beat Georgia 66-46 on Senior Day.
Silva had 19 points and seven rebounds in the first half as the Gamecocks used an 18-1 run to turn a one-point deficit into a 30-14 lead with 7:30 left in the half and eventually a 23-point lead just before the break.
As Silva goes, often goes the Gamecocks. This was his sixth SEC game with 22 or more points and South Carolina is 4-2 in those. In four SEC games he has scored seven points or less and the Gamecocks are 1-3. In last weekend's loss to lowly Missouri, the 6-foot-9 all-SEC player in 2018 did not pull down a single rebound.
Nothing was different Saturday, even with all the hoopla, Silva said.
"I was playing like I always play - hard," Silva said.
A poor second half nearly spoiled the party. Georgia (11-20, 2-16) crawled back in it, trailing just 51-41 after E'Torrion Wilridge made one of two free throws with just over six minutes to go.
But the Bulldogs didn't make a shot from the field in the final 10 minutes and South Carolina did just enough despite shooting 18.2 percent (4 of 22) in the second half.
Georgia shot just 26.2 percent (11 of 42) on Saturday after making just 25.5 percent (13 of 51) of their shots in Wednesday's 64-39 loss to Missouri. The Bulldogs are the 13th seed in the SEC Tournament and will play on the opening night of the five-day tournament for the second year in a row.
Nicolas Claxton had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Derek Ogbeide added 11 points and 10 rebounds for Georgia.
The SEC has seven teams likely in the NCAA Tournament. The fourth-place Gamecocks aren't one of them.
South Carolina doomed itself with a 5-8 nonconference record along with nothing that even resembled a good win and losses to 7-23 Wyoming and Stony Brook.
Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said he is annoyed his team isn't even in bubble talk, while a 16-14 Indiana team that is 7-12 in the Big Ten is.
"We've lost games. I understand. I'm not here to say we belong," Martin said. "But I'm here to say put ours against anybody on the bubble."
Bulldogs coach Tom Crean hasn't seen a season like this since his rebuilding job at Indiana, which started with six wins in 2008-09 and followed with a 10-win season.
And he has had missteps along the way, including saying his team's lack of mental toughness was his fault because "I'm the one who decided to keep these guys" after taking over for the fired Mark Fox.
Saturday, he said he was proud of the toughness of his team for battling back from 23 points down just before halftime to just a 10-point deficit midway into the second half.
"I don't get frustrated, I really don't. That doesn't mean you are happy. I wouldn't say that at all," Crean said. "Once the fifth-grade comes and goes, you can't get frustrated anymore. You have to move forward."
"That was fun," Martin said. "That's the way it should be."
Georgia: The Bulldogs' 16 SEC losses are the most ever, matching the 1973-74 team, which also went 2-16 in the league. Only once has Georgia won fewer SEC games, going 1-13 in 1955-56. Georgia will likely lose its 21st game sometime next week at the SEC Tournament, which would be the most losses for the Bulldogs since that 1955-56 team also lost 21 games. For Georgia fans, it's only 175 days until the 2019 football opener at Vanderbilt.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks now have finished in the top four in the SEC for the third time in four seasons, but unless they get the league's automatic bid by winning next week's SEC Tournament, the Gamecocks will likely have just one NCAA bid over that time (the 2017 run to the Final Four). And winning the SEC Tournament may be a tall task for South Carolina, which is 0-4 against the top three teams in the league (LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee).
Georgia: The Bulldogs are the 13th seed and play Wednesday in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are the fourth seed and get a double-bye to Friday's SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
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Updated March 9, 2019