Originally created 02/29/04

Gamecocks see tourney ahead



COLUMBIA - In his six years as a head coach, Georgia coach Dennis Felton never had seen a player spike the basketball in frustration after a referee's whistle.

But Saturday night, with the Bulldogs hopelessly behind, with their NCAA Tournament hopes dimming, with South Carolina tormenting their offense, Jonas Hayes snapped.

And then he spiked the ball, earning a technical foul and summing up the Bulldogs' night perfectly.

South Carolina's Josh Gonner scored 17 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, and the Gamecocks used Hayes' breakdown as fuel for two big runs in the final period to pull away with a 63-47 win at the sold-out Colonial Center.

Hayes' slam, which sent the ball about 25 feet in the air, was the exclamation point for the Bulldogs' (14-11, 6-8 Southeastern Conference) night.

"That was an illustration of how frustrated we were," Felton said. "It was a frustrating night for us."

South Carolina (21-7, 8-6) certainly did its part in raising the Bulldogs' ire.

Gonner recorded four steals and was hot in the second half, connecting on five of six field goals, to send the Gamecocks on runs of 8-0 and 17-4 to pull away late.

"We could tell," guard Mike Boynton said, "they were becoming a little less confident."

That was because South Carolina's defense was impressive, preventing Georgia from scoring a field goal in the last 10:28 of the contest.

"We started to take things away," Boynton said. "Anytime you're not running your offense, it makes you a little more tight."

Count Hayes as an example.

After Georgia reserve Buzz Wehunt was blocked by John Chappell while attempting a layup, the freshman Bulldog recovered the ball but stepped on the end line to give possession to South Carolina.

Hayes, probably out of frustration, immediately spiked the ball, earning the technical. Considering Chris Daniels and Marcus Sikes were on the bench with four fouls apiece, his tantrum wasn't real timely for Georgia.

The Gamecocks were quick to take advantage.

"In the second half, when we started getting some steals, I could see a little slippage in what they were trying to do," Gonner said.

"Those fouls came quick and early, and it was good for us."

What's not so good for the Gamecocks is the injury to Rolando Howell's left wrist. After scoring a team-high 10 points in the first half, Howell got tangled with Rashad Wright - who led the Bulldogs with 13 points - and injured his left wrist.

He was taken to a local hospital, and early reports "were not good," Odom said.

Considering South Carolina plays host to Kentucky on Wednesday and travels to Tennessee on Saturday, he's exactly right.

The win, though, should help matters.

"We will get no calls from the NCAA committee, I can promise you that, so we'll play on," said Odom, whose team had lost five of its last seven games coming in. "And we will play well."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216

or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.