After a fun couple of days that included wins over Auburn and Arkansas, the Gamecocks finally succumbed to the gauntlet that is the SEC Tournament stepladder, falling to the well-rested and very good Tennessee Volunteers, 59-44. With the loss, the Gamecocks finished the season with a 14-20 record.
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The Volunteers jumped out to an early 11-2 lead, and outside of a brief stretch in the middle of the first half where Carolina closed the lead to 18-14, the Gamecocks never really threatened. The star of the game was Jarnell Stokes, who scored 22 points and grabbed 15 boards, and basically ruined the Gamecocks throughout the afternoon. Carolina shot a woeful 28% on 2s (as compared to the Vols' 56%) and basically had no answer in the paint.
The game also marked the end of Brenton Williams' career at Carolina. He struggled, going 3-14 from the field for 9 points on the afternoon.
Sindarius Thornwell also struggled mightily with foul trouble, picking up two fouls in the first half and his fourth early in the second half, which limited his production. Duane Notice also didn't have his best afternoon, going 2-11 for 8 points. With their three primary scoring threats not working (a combined 8-34 from the field for 24 points), the inability of Carolina to score on offense seemed inevitable, and their represented their third-lowest effort of the year (their second-worst was in Knoxville).
Overall, the SEC Tournament must be considered a success for the Gamecocks, and despite some frustrating times, the season as a whole shouldn't be considered too much of a failure, especially given the upheaval at the point guard position due to the Tyrone Johnson injury and Bruce Ellington's decision to focus on football. Carolina should return nearly all of its production from this season with the exception of Williams, and add at least three top 300 recruits coming into the program, there's plenty of reasons to think that next year's group can take yet another step forward (though the NCAA Tournament may still be a bit too much to ask).
The loss finishes the season, but we'll still be covering all things Gamecock hoops, including a season retrospective coming soon.