Just when you think the Gamecocks can't figure out another way to lose a nailbiter, they outdo themselves and lose an absolute heartbreaker at Mizzou, 71-65. It briefly looked like Carolina might run away with this one, as we lead by double digits midway through the second half. Mizzou then went on a tear to get back in the game, but we managed to stop the bleeding and play the Tigers close through the final minutes. We didn't make the shots we needed to at the end of the game, though, and Mizzou did.
There are two major stories in this game. First of all, Damien Leonard got too many minutes while playing very poorly, shooting 1-11 overall and 0-5 from downtown. Leonard gave a nice effort, but he missed open shot after open shot, and fans are left wondering why Frank Martin didn't call on Brian Richardson. Martin has talked a lot about sticking with players who deserve his confidence, and he's clearly happy with Leonard's commitment to improving his game (and may be down on Richardson for some reason), but tonight was pushing the fates.
The second major story was free-throw shooting. Carolina went 11-17, while Mizzou went 28-36. We sent them to the line too many times, didn't earn enough trips ourselves, and didn't make enough of our shots. Bruce Ellington went 1-4 from the line. It's one thing when Lakeem Jackson is missing FTs, but when a dependable sharpshooter is 25%, you've got a problem, particularly when it would have changed the complexion of the game for him to have made any one of those shots. In any event, it's hard to win when your opponent scores 17 more points from the stripe than you do.
I didn't expect to win this game, even granting Mizzou's troubles with injuries and the Haith investigation, but given that we had a serious lead, this one really hurts. That said, while the record isn't pretty, the team is playing hard and keeping things respectable, which is more than last year's team can say. I hope we can keep our head up and continue fighting. Eventually, more wins will come we do so.