For the second straight game, South Carolina committed too many turnovers to complain about walking away with a loss. For the second straight game, it was another aspect of its game that ultimately did them in.
Despite - though in part because of - 19 turnovers (in 76 possessions), the Gamecocks had a chance to win the game late against LSU, coming back from down 64-52 with 3 minutes left to bring the game to within one possession with under a minute to go on the clock. But only down 5, Carolina gave up an offensive rebound to Johnny O'Bryant on a missed free throw, and ultimately the Gamecocks never got within a possession again until Brenton William's three-pointer at the buzzer hit the twine.
It was a perfect encapsulation of what killed the Gamecocks on the afternoon - rebounding. Carolina's defense (and LSU's carelessness) allowed Carolina to weather the storm of turnovers it committed on the offensive end, as the teams both coughed the ball up 19 times. But LSU grabbed 16 of its own misses (against only 7 offensive rebounds for Carolina), and the extra eight field goal attempts those rebounds allowed the Tigers were the difference between them and the Gamecocks on Saturday afternoon.
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The first half wound up with LSU nursing a 32-30 lead, and the teams stayed close in the second half until the Tigers opened up a 63-50 lead with a 21-9 run in the middle of the second half. Carolina would draw close late thanks to a number of LSU turnovers and missed free throws, but ultimately the Gamecocks themselves were as sloppy as LSU, and wasted their chances to finish the game.
Individually, Sindarius Thornwell carried Carolina, scoring 25 points as one of only three Gamecocks to score double-digit points on the afternoon. Thornwell was 9-13 from the field and 6-9 from the line, and for large periods of time appeared to be the only scoring option Carolina had on the floor.
Particularly, the Gamecocks got next to nothing from their interior players. Guards Thornwell, Brenton Williams, and Tyrone Johnson combined for 51 of USC's 68 points (and 39 of their 48 field goal attempts), mostly because the interior players simply could not create offensive opportunities against Johnny O'Bryant, Jordan Mickey, and the rest of the LSU frontline.
On the other end, three players from LSU were also critical to offensive production, but unlike the Gamecocks - who relied on post players - the Tigers looked to the interior. O'Bryant, Mickey, and freshman Jarell Martin went a combined 15-25 from the field for a total of 44 points, and the rest of the LSU Tigers contributed enough to get the Tigers out of Columbia with a win.
The loss drops Carolina to 7-8 overall, and 0-2 in SEC play. They'll face another tough but winnable match-up on Wednesday as they travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies, who opened SEC play with a 69-53 win over Arkansas, a team that notoriously struggles away from Fayetteville. Before that win, A&M had compiled exactly zero quality wins on the season, but had notched two neutral-court losses against their only credible opposition (55-52 in Corpus Christi against SMU, and 64-52 versus Oklahoma in Houston) while suffering a bad loss to Missouri State and a 61-41 debacle against North Texas.
Suffice to say, A&M represents a good chance for the Gamecocks to get their first SEC win, to get back to .500, and to claim their first true road victory of the season. The game tips at 8pm ET and can be watched on SEC TV.