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Georgia crushes Gamecocks 80-56

ATHENS - A four-game losing streak only emboldened coach Dennis Felton's belief in his Georgia team.

Felton said Wednesday's 80-56 victory over South Carolina should ensure his players have the same confidence.

Now, however, South Carolina coach Dave Odom has new reason to worry.

Georgia attacked with its

3-point shooting in the first half and then scored inside in the final 20 minutes to end the losing streak, which included losses to three Top 25 teams, including two ranked in the top five.

After the streak began with a loss to Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs fell to Clemson, now ranked No. 17 and still undefeated, now-No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 2 Florida.

''What has happened the last four games is certainly nothing to be ashamed of,'' Felton said. ''It certainly should contribute to our confidence. We have gone toe to toe with some great chances to win with some of the best teams in the country.''

Added Felton: ''I looked at those games and thought 'Boy, I'm seeing some possibilities here.'''

Felton said he believes the tough string of games should prepare the Bulldogs for their Southeastern Conference schedule - if only the players' confidence survived the ordeal.

''I was concerned our team was vulnerable to letting it hurt our confidence,'' Felton said. ''So I'm glad tonight we won.''

The lopsided victory left Odom convinced that Georgia is a quality team.

The Bulldogs took a 41-28 advantage in rebounds and held the Gamecocks to 35.1 percent shooting.

''We were beaten in every facet tonight,'' Odom said. ''Georgia really took it to us.

''I can't remember the last time one of our teams was beaten up that bad inside. They just had their way with us.''

Georgia's Mike Mercer, a South Gwinnett grad, scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. The Bulldogs (9-5 overall, 1-1 SEC) also had 15 points from Takais Brown and 12 points with eight rebounds from point guard Sundiata Gaines.

South Carolina (10-4, 0-1) was led by Dwayne Day's 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting.