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March 3, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. - A defensive miscommunication cost South Carolina its last game.
More of them cost the Gamecocks their game at Georgia on Saturday.
It's starting to become far too familiar.
Coach Darrin Horn's defensive system is built on constant switching, throwing different looks at an offense so that no one player can figure out another player's defensive tendencies. That's why center Damontre Harris was guarding former walk-on senior guard Matt Bucklin on the game's first possession, and picked up a foul as he bumped him at mid-court.
The defense and rebounding kept Georgia off the scoreboard for the game's first seven minutes, but then Gerald Robinson Jr. caught fire. He scored all 11 of the Bulldogs' points in one stretch, including three 3-pointers, and Georgia never trailed again.
The first 3 of a five-3-pointer run was in transition. The last, from Sherrard Brantley, was a circus shot with a hand in his face that couldn't have been defended any better.
The middle three - same problem. Someone didn't switch, someone didn't communicate, someone scored.
"We've played through this enough to understand that it's going to happen," Horn said. "More importantly, during that stretch, we had turnovers that led to baskets for them as well."
USC was able to limit Georgia's scoring in its first matchup this season - a 57-56 USC win - by playing a 1-3-1 zone defense and forcing guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to stick outside. That defense was an afterthought on Saturday, as the Bulldogs constantly pushed their height and bulk at USC.
The Bulldogs' bigs were always in the lane, and when someone stepped in to challenge, they flipped a pass around to someone on the backside. No defense is ever going to be perfect, but when if the defense is supposed to switch and doesn't, five men can seem like seven men.
"We know what we're going to do. We execute it all the time," freshman Anthony Gill insisted. "We have to work on it again."
WHERE ARE MY PADS?: Bruce Ellington hit the deck hard in the second half and stayed down for a while, although he was only shook off. A USC spokesperson said that Ellington banged up his shoulder and had a small cut on his wrist, but was OK; Ellington sat out until the next media break before he checked back in.
The play was strange. Georgia was inbounding and Ellington flew to block the pass. He stayed in the air long enough for Dustin Ware to get under him, and Ellington's leg cracked Ware in the neck.
Ellington went down in a heap, being attended to by the training staff, before he was issued a flagrant foul. Ware shot two free throws and Georgia made a six-point lead eight, which was the Gamecocks' last gasp.
MAKING HISTORY: USC recorded the program's worst SEC finish, with a 2-14 mark. The Gamecocks' previous worst was 3-13, set in 1998-99 and 1991-92, the program's first in the SEC.
The Gamecocks became the fifth team since the SEC expanded to 12 teams to only record two wins in the league, not counting teams that were officially credited as winless due to probation. Tennessee (1993-94), LSU (1997-98, 2000-01, 2009-10) and Georgia (2004-05) were the others.
The Gamecocks also became the fourth team in program history to record 20 losses, the last in 1998-99, the season following two straight NCAA tournament berths and the final season of career leading scorer BJ McKie. Before that, USC had to go back to a 4-20 season in 1958-59 to find a 20-loss team, and 1937-38 before that (3-21).
USC's worst loss total was 21 in 1937-38 and 1998-99. The Gamecocks are guaranteed to tie that mark barring a win-out season, which would mean they would win the national championship.
TRYING TO GET BETTER: Assistant coach Cypheus Bunton did not attend the game. A USC spokesperson said that Bunton was out recruiting.
SEC TOURNAMENT: USC will play Alabama at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday in the first round of the SEC tournament.
Team SEC Overall
*Kentucky 15-0 29-1
Florida 10-5 22-8
Tennessee 10-6 18-13
Vanderbilt 10-6 21-10
Alabama 9-7 20-10
Mississippi State 8-8 21-10
Ole Miss 8-8 18-12
LSU 7-9 17-13
Arkansas 6-10 18-13
Auburn 5-11 15-15
Georgia 5-11 14-16
South Carolina 2-14 10-20
*Clinched regular-season title
Georgia 67, South Carolina 55
Auburn 67, LSU 52
Ole Miss 60, Alabama 51
Tennessee 68, Vanderbilt 61
Mississippi State 79, Arkansas 59
Kentucky at Florida
2012 SEC TOURNAMENT
With locked in seeds listed.
March 8-11 * New Orleans Arena * New Orleans
Game 1 -- No. 8 vs. LSU, 1 p.m.
Game 2 -- Alabama vs. South Carolina, 3:30 p.m.
Game 3 -- No. 7 vs. Auburn, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4 -- No. 6 vs. Georgia, 10 p.m.
Game 5 -- Game 1 winner vs. Kentucky, 1 p.m.
Game 6 -- Game 2 winner vs. No. 4, 3:30 p.m.
Game 7 -- Game 3 winner vs. No. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Game 8 -- Game 4 winner vs. No. 3, 10 p.m.
Game 9 -- Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 10 -- Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 3:30 p.m.
Championship -- Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 1 p.m.
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