ATHENS, Ga. - As South Carolina forward Kerbrell Brown was getting back on defense Saturday at Georgia, he figured he had a second to say something to teammate Tony Kitchings.
When you're trying to guard Jarvis Hayes, a second is a second too long.
Hayes sneaked to the left wing, hauled in a pass and buried a 3-pointer before Brown could recover.
The sequence was a microcosm of No. 22 Georgia's 79-66 thumping of South Carolina in front of 10,523 fans at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs (16-7, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) were more eager, more aggressive and more impressive in snapping the Gamecocks' four-game winning streak.
"You can't have a lapse or take your eye off him," Brown said of Hayes. "I took a split second to talk to Tony, and he hit that 3."
Hayes hit plenty of other shots in scoring a game-high 26 points, his highest total since a 29-point effort Dec. 15 against Gonzaga. If there was any doubt he still suffered from a hip injury Feb. 8at Tennessee, Hayes has eliminated it by scoring 49 points on 18-for-32 shooting in the past two games.
Guard Ezra Williams scored 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting as Georgia won its third straight game. Chris Warren led the Gamecocks with 15 points, and Kitchings was the team's only other double-figure scorer with 11.
The Gamecocks (11-12, 4-8) never found an answer for Hayes, who curled off picks and elevated to create shots over the series of players South Carolina coach Dave Odom sent to guard him.
"They were quicker to the ball, and when they got to the ball they were effective," Odom said. "When their offensive patterns broke down, Jarvis Hayes just rose and made shots."
The Gamecocks appeared to have the advantage inside with 6-foot-10 Tony Kitchings and 6-9 Rolando Howell. The Bulldogs don't have a player taller than 6-8, but their frontcourt played taller than that - and definitely taller than South Carolina - by limiting Kitchings and Howell to a combined 17 points and nine rebounds.
Georgia also owned a 42-34 advantage on the boards.
"We battled with them; that's what we're going to do," said Georgia center Steve Thomas, whose team has held its past three opponents under 40 percent shooting. "We're not going to back down."
Odom left Athens feeling as if his team backed down. From the start, it was apparent the Gamecocks didn't have the crispness that characterized their winning streak.
The Gamecocks seemed lackadaisical in the first half, failing to grab loose balls and allowing second- and third-chance points. The Bulldogs finally pounced at the end of the first half, using a 19-3 surge in the final 4:45 to enter halftime with a comfortable 38-25 cushion.
Georgia extended the advantage to 20 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half; South Carolina didn't mount a serious threat thereafter.
"It's frustrating," said Odom, whose team plays at Florida on Tuesday. "We knew we had to be impeccable as it relates to execution."
Georgia, which visits Mississippi on Wednesday, might have cemented its hopes of going to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year, an unprecedented feat for the program. But more important, the Bulldogs seem to be gathering momentum at the right time.
"When we can get out and run and push the ball, that helps us a lot," Georgia coach Jim Harrick said. "We rebounded with them, which was a surprise. They're long and big, but we played well today. I liked our effort."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org