UGA men’s basketball establishing ‘travel partner’ rivalry with South Carolina

Under the Southeastern Conference’s expanded 18-game men’s basketball schedule, Georgia and South Carolina are considered “permanent” rivals.

AJ Reynolds/Staff
Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) is defended by Auburn guard Jordan Price (10) during the Bulldogs' win on Wednesday at Stegeman Coliseum.

Bulldogs coach Mark Fox termed the border-state Gamecocks a “travel partner.”

Whatever you call it, the teams are slated to meet twice this season — and the next two season — including this afternoon at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.

“We have a lot of natural rivalries,” Fox said. “Obviously, Georgia Tech is a rival and Florida is a rival and Auburn’s a rival. South Carolina’s become our travel partner in the league. In league play, they’re all basically rivals. With the new schedule, we’ll see how it all evolves.”

The SEC’s permanent rivals established at its spring meetings last year in Destin, Fla., included some natural pairings: Alabama-Auburn and Ole Miss-Mississippi State.

Under the format, Georgia (9-11, 3-4 SEC) plays South Carolina (12-8, 2-5) home-and-home for three seasons, and plays four rotating opponents twice a season. During the three-year schedule model, that means Georgia will play South Carolina six times and the other 12 teams in the league four times.

Fox preferred Georgia play Florida twice each season, but the Gators and Kentucky were made permanent foes, creating a more attractive matchup nationally. The other permanent rivals are Arkansas-Missouri, Tennessee-Vanderbilt and LSU-Texas A&M.

“Long-term, the most natural rivalry it’s either Auburn or Florida,” Fox said. “Florida, obviously, is a huge game in football and the Auburn-Georgia series in football has been going on forever, but we knew we weren’t going to have Auburn as our rival because of Alabama and the natural tie between those two schools.”

Four out of five Georgia players surveyed this week first mentioned Georgia Tech — which is in the ACC — as the Bulldogs’ biggest basketball rival. Florida got the other mention.

“I’d probably say Georgia Tech,” forward Donte’ Williams said. “And probably say in the SEC, Florida is the main one.”

The Gators were the clear top choice in the conference by Georgia players.

“You just feel more passionate about that game for some reason,” senior guard Vincent Williams said.

“I didn’t grow up here,” said sophomore forward Nemanja Djurisic from Montengero. “Beating Florida last year, I know, was a big thing.”

Florida is the most frequent opponent in Georgia basketball history, having played 198 times. Georgia Tech is second with 186 games against Georgia, followed by Auburn, which has played 178 times against the Bulldogs.

The Gators are ranked No. 4 in the nation this week, with one first-place vote in the coaches’ poll.

“That was mine,” Fox said. “I think they’re the best team in America right now.”

South Carolina would probably agree after the Gators routed the Gamecocks 75-36 on Wednesday night. Georgia has lost twice to Florida this year.

Sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said he sees Florida and Kentucky as Georgia’s “main two rivals.”

Georgia-South Carolina has been evenly played, with the Bulldogs holding a 50-48 margin in games won.

Speaking before Florida’s big win Wednesday, Caldwell-Pope said of the Gamecocks: “I think it’s a pretty good matchup between us and South Carolina. South Carolina also has a young team, too, as we are. … We’ve just got to see who’s the better team.”

A CLOSER LOOK

GEORGIA AT SOUTH CAROLINA

When: 1:45 p.m.

Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.

TV: SEC Network (P-TV)

Radio: WRFC 960-AM.

Records: Georgia is 9-11, 3-4 SEC; South Carolina is 12-8, 2-5 SEC.

Season at a glance: Georgia has bounced back from an 0-3 start in SEC play to win three of its last four games. The Bulldogs, in a four-way tie for sixth in the league standings, are coming off a 57-49 win at home against Auburn on Wednesday night. The only loss during that stretch came to now-No. 4 Florida. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has averaged 21.3 points per game in the three wins. South Carolina, coming off a dismal showing at Florida, has lost three of its last four. The Gamecocks had a similar fate to Georgia in losing in blowout fashion in Gainesville. The fourth-ranked Gators won 75-36 on Wednesday night. South Carolina shot 3 of 21 from the field in the first half, trailed 33-10 at halftime and had 17 turnovers in the game. The Gamecocks beat Arkansas a week ago in Columbia, 75-54.

Probable starting lineups:

Georgia: G Vincent Williams (6-0, 165, Sr., 4.9 ppg, 2.2 apg); G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6-5, 205, So., 17.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg ); F: Brandon Morris (6-7, 205, Fr., 4.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg); F Donte’ Williams (6-9, 225, Jr., 5.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg); C John Florveus (6-11, 240, Sr., 2.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg).

South Carolina: G Eric Smith (5-11, 205, Jr., 6.1 ppg, 3.4 apg); G Bruce Ellington (5-9, 197, Jr., 10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg); F Laimonos Chatkevicius (6-11, 255, Fr, 3.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg.); F Michael Carrera (6-5, 211, Fr., 9.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Lakeem Jackson (6-5, 235, Sr., 9.3 ppg. 6.9 rpg).

Series record: Georgia leads 50-48, and has won four of the last five. The Gamecocks are 30-17 in Columbia.

Last meeting: The Bulldogs won 67-55 on March 3, 2012 in Athens on senior day. Gerald Robinson led Georgia with 23 points. The Bulldogs went 23 of 34 from the free-throw line.

Noteworthy: Georgia is fourth in the SEC in field-goal percentage defense (39.7) and South Carolina is last (43.3). …The Gamecocks are third in the league in rebounding margin (plus-6.4) while Georgia is 10th (plus-0.4). …Georgia is 1-6 away from Athens but notched its one road victory a week ago at Texas A&M. The Gamecocks are 8-4 at home …South Carolina is promoting today’s game as “2K vs. UGA,” setting a goal of 2,000 in student attendance. …The Gamecocks start two freshmen from overseas in Chatkevicius (Lithuania) and Carrera (Venezuela). Chatkevicius missed the first six games after the NCAA determined he received impermissible benefits from his host family before enrolling at South Carolina…The two-sport Ellington, who plays receiver on the South Carolina football team, has played 11 games this season …Frank Martin is in his first season in Columbia after five seasons at Kansas State, where he reached the NCAA tournament four times, including an Elite Eight trip in 2010. …South Carolina post player Carlton Geathers, cousin of former Georgia nose guard Kwame Geathers, hasn’t played this season after fracturing his right knee cap in July and remains out indefinitely.

— Marc Weiszer

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