South Carolina rallied from six down in the final five minutes on Wednesday night to defeat Mississippi 63-62. After weeks of struggling, the Gamecocks may have found a few players willing to take on the role of accountability when times get tough led by junior Bruce Ellington.
Guard Bruce Ellington has taken ownership of the 2012-13 team.
Date: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013
Tipoff: 2 p.m. ET
Location: Athens, Ga.
Arena: Stegeman Coliseum (10,523)
Series: South Carolina leads 50-49 (UGA leads 30-15 in Athens)
Last Meeting: Georgia win, 67-56, on Feb. 2, 2013, in Columbia, S.C.
Television: CBS (Network television)
“It started in the Alabama game,” Martin said, recounting Ellington's leadership. “Bruce Ellington is the ultimate winner. When we were down 20 at Alabama he refused to give into that difficult moment and as that game continued to unfold, I saw guys kind of joining his enthusiasm and desire to compete and that gave me optimism at the end of that game.”
Against the Rebels, Ellington once again made his impact felt during a timeout with five minutes remaining and the Gamecocks trailing. This time a few more players joined in with Ellington to help keep spirits high and give confidence the team could come back to win the ball game.
“Somewhere in the middle of that time out Bruce Ellington once again opened his mouth and said we have worked too hard to give into this moment,” Martin said. “Eric Smith then jumped on that comment and (Michael) Carrera who had not been in that game, he jumped in the timeout and created a positive moment in a difficult situation so you leave the huddle feeling good.”
The next step for the Gamecocks, according to Martin, is building confidence in themselves for when the moment does arrive. The comeback on Wednesday night was an important step and will hopefully provide something for the players to reach back to when they are in the situation again.
“Hard games are not won by mistake. You have to play your tail off and hope with two or three minutes you are there,” Martin said. “Once you are there, play through your disciplines, play through your team concepts and when you have a opportunity be fearless of the moment. We have to get our guys to believe that. Our guys still don’t understand that and that is because they haven’t found the experiences to dwell on and feel good about. We have to use moments like today to hopefully feel better so every time we are in that same situation we are more fearless to go do our jobs.”
Georgia enters the game with a 12-14 overall record, 6-7 in SEC play. The Bulldogs dropped a 62-60 decision at Arkansas on Thursday night marking their third straight conference loss.
The Bulldogs and Gamecocks are "permanent rivals," as designated last spring by the SEC in its new scheduling process. Saturday's match-up will be the 100th between the two schools with the Gamecocks holding a narrow 50-49 edge in the series.
Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m. with television coverage from CBS.