What we learned as Gamecocks finish DC road trip with down-to-wire win at Georgetown

Joshua Boucher/jboucher@thestate.com

Days after South Carolina head coach Lamont Paris questioned his team’s competitive spirit, the Gamecocks finished off their two-game Washington D.C. road trip with significantly more spunk.

Taking on Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown team at Capital One Arena, the Gamecocks tangled with the Hoyas for 40 minutes, coming on strong in the second half to tie the game and force overtime and going on to win 74-71.

Starting point guard Meechie Johnson scored the go-ahead 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in overtime, giving the Gamecocks (4-4) a thrilling overtime win. With the win, the Gamecocks bounced back from a 24-point loss at George Washington on Wednesday.

Here’s what we learned.

GG Jackson erupts in the second half

For the second straight game on the D.C. roadtrip, USC freshman phenom GG Jackson started off quietly.

The 17-year-old Jackson had one of his worst games as a Gamecock in the loss to George Washington. Playing in front of 16 NBA scouts and executives on Wednesday night Jackson went 4-for-17, and Paris questioned his shot selection after the game.

Saturday’s game started off in equally rough fashion for Jackson, who went 0-for-5 from the field in the first half and forced a few mid-range jumpers. But the second half was a different story entirely.

The local product showed why NBA scouts are so interested — racking up 22 points in the second half on 9-of-11 shooting. Jackson scored in a variety of ways, sinking back-to-back deep threes, making a turnaround jumper at the top of the key and showcasing his post moves down near the rim.

Gamecocks scuffle in the paint

USC’s post game has been a weakness for much of the season, with Gamecock big men frequently — and frustratingly — missing point-blank layups and struggling to contain opposing forwards.

On Saturday, the Hoyas pounded both the glass and the paint, tallying nine offensive rebounds in the first half alone and scoring 36 paint points for the game.

Center Qudus Wahab (6-foot-11) and forward Akok Akok (6-foot-10) proved to be menaces near the rim, giving USC starting center Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk all sorts of trouble. Bosmans-Verdonk had three fouls before halftime and tallied his fourth foul at the start of the second, forcing him off the court.

Bosmans-Verdonk did redeem himself in the final minute of overtime, grabbing an offensive rebound and kicking it out to Johnson for the go-ahead 3-pointer.

Small lineup excels for USC

With Bosmans-Verdonk in foul trouble, the Gamecocks utilized a guard-heavy lineup for much of the second half, with Johnson, Jacobi Wright and Chico Carter Jr. each playing in the backcourt, and Hayden Brown and Jackson playing in the frontcourt.

Johnson looked especially fresh after a nagging ankle injury sapped him of his speed in the team’s early slate of games. The junior guard created a bevy of open looks on the offensive end, driving the lane and kicking the ball back out. He also sunk four deep 3-pointers, showcasing his range and giving the Gamecocks a much-needed perimeter presence. Johnson scored a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute of overtime.

Brown had one of his better games as a Gamecock, putting up eight rebounds and scoring 16 points — including a game-tying free throw at the end of the game on an intentional foul by Georgetown.

Next four USC MBB games

Dec. 11: vs. Presbyterian, 6 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Dec. 14: at UAB, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Dec. 17: vs. East Carolina (Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville), 2 p.m., TBD

Dec. 22: vs. Western Kentucky, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)