Williams, Hayes spark Georgia to third straight win

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Like most shooters, Ezra Williams knew the
end of his slump was only a couple of baskets away.

Williams scored eight of his 16 points during a game-turning run
at the end of the first half and (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) Georgia beat South Carolina 79-66 on Saturday.

Jarvis Hayes had 26 points for the Bulldogs (16-7, 8-4
Southeastern Conference), who won their third straight and improved
to 11-0 at home this season. Williams and Hayes did a lot of their
damage outside, combining for five 3-pointers.

"We had no answer for them,'' South Carolina center Tony
Kitchings said. "We had two guys on Ezra one time, and he just
pulled up and shot on both of them.''

In the previous five games, Williams made only 34 percent of his
shots, and he hadn't made at least half in nearly a month. But he
was 6-of-10 Saturday, snapping out of his funk in time to help
Georgia clinch a .500 record in the conference.

That has long been considered the benchmark for an at-large bid
to the NCAA Tournament.

"It feels great to hit some shots, and get out of that little
slump I was in,'' Williams said. "It just shows the maturity we
have on this team. We don't get frustrated, we just wait for the
shots to come.''

With Tennessee's loss to Alabama on Saturday, Georgia moved into
third place in the SEC East.

"I would think that we clinched an NCAA berth,'' Hayes said.
"We just want to finish the season strong, and make sure we get a
good seed.''

Chris Warren scored 15 points and Kitchings added 11 for South
Carolina (11-12, 4-8), which had won four in a row.

"They're a Top 25 team by anybody's standards,'' South Carolina
coach Dave Odom said of the Bulldogs. "I think they're probably a
Top 10 team in this building.''

The Gamecocks, who fell to 1-9 away from home, took their last
lead on a 3-pointer by Warren with 4:46 left in the first half. But
they scored only three more points before the break, and the
Bulldogs exploded behind Williams and Hayes.

First, Williams hit a jumper for his first points of the game,
and Hayes had a three-point play, giving Georgia a 24-22 lead.
Williams added two more baskets and two free throws during the
spurt, which was capped by a powerful dunk by Hayes just before the

With South Carolina holding for the last shot of the half,
Kitchings lost the ball on a drive down the lane. Georgia's Chris
Daniels recovered it and fed point guard Rashad Wright, who led a
3-on-1 fast break.

Wright lofted a perfect lob to Hayes, who grabbed the ball and
stuffed it with two hands to give the Bulldogs a 38-25 lead.

"I knew I had enough time, but I thought I was just going to be
able to lay it in,'' Hayes said. "But I had enough time to get up
and dunk it.''

The Gamecocks got within 10 points once in the final 20 minutes,
but Williams and Hayes took over again.

Hayes nailed a 3-pointer, followed by a jumper by Williams, and
Hayes stretched the margin to 15 with a dunk on a backdoor pass
from Daniels.

Consecutive 3s by Williams and Hayes gave the Bulldogs a
20-point lead, and they cruised from there.

"We never felt we had a comfortable lead until that point,''
Hayes said. "South Carolina is a pesky team. We knew at any point,
they're capable of a run.''

Daniels, the only player in the conference ranked in the top 10
in rebounds, assists and steals, finished with six points, 11
rebounds, four assists and two steals.