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Auburn 71 South Carolina 68 - Gamecocks lose one they needed

South Carolina fell by three points to Auburn on Saturday night, a game they sorely needed to win to bolster their now fading NCAA chances.

The officiating was not great on Saturday.
The officiating was not great on Saturday.
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

There's no easy way to say it - South Carolina blew a huge opportunity to build its NCAA resume on Saturday night with an extremely disappointing three-point loss to the Auburn Tigers.  The loss drops the Gamecocks to 1-3 in the SEC, and the forthcoming conference schedule only added to the disappointment.

The Gamecocks likely need 10-11 wins in SEC play to make the NCAA Tournament, which requires no worse than a 9-5 run to finish out the season.  With four games left against Arkansas and Kentucky, not to mention the other eight games that don't involve hosting Missouri or Mississippi State, it's tough to see the Gamecocks putting together the type of stretch they need to end their 11-year absence from the Big Dance.

Advanced Box Score
USC Aub.
68 Score 71
1.009 PPP 1.053
1.349 Non-TO: 1.305
67 possessions
26-52 FG 19-52
8-18 3P 7-20
8-15 FT 26-33
9 OREB 13
25 DREB 23
17 TO 13
Four Factors
57.69% eFG 43.27%
25.22% TO 19.29%
28.13% OReb 34.21%
28.85% FTR 63.46%
52.94% 2P% 37.50%
44.44% 3P% 35.00%
34.62% 3PA% 38.46%
53.33% FT% 78.79%
PPP = Points per poss.
Non-TO = PPP on non-turnover poss.
eFG = (2PM+(1.5*3PM))/FGA
3PA% = 3PA/FGA

Three Thoughts on the Team Stats

1. Foul shots killed Carolina. The Gamecocks beat the Tigers from the field, but got hammered by 18 points from the free throw stripe.  Some of that came from not shooting very well - Auburn beat Carolina 79% to 53% from the line - but the Tigers also created far, far more opportunities there as well.

Some of that's a credit to Auburn for going to the rim, and some of that is the breaks you get when you travel and don't get the same sorts of calls that you get at home (for example, one of the reasons that Arkansas' game doesn't travel is that they rely heavily on foul calls).  That said, it seemed like a combination of poor officiating and the Gamecocks not going up strong enough, often enough, that led to their demise.

2. The Gamecocks didn't win the small things. They weren't clobbered in either aspect, but this is the type of game where a couple of extra shots change the calculus.  Instead of getting them, however, the Gamecocks gave them away - they were out-rebounded on the glass and gave the ball away four more times than the Tigers.  Those four extra possessions made all the difference.

3. A wasted shooting night. Going into another gym and out-shooting the home team by as much as Carolina did is impressive - they beat the Tigers 53-38% from two and 44-35% from downtown.  The fact that wasn't enough to win says a lot about how they played in the rest of the areas.

Three Thoughts

1. Nice game, Laimonas. The big Lithuanian was impressive in all aspects, racking up 15 points on 7-10 shooting (1-2 from beyond the arc) to go with 11 total rebounds (two offensive) as well as two blocks.  You'd like to see him get to the foul line a little more - only one missed attempt - but that's a great effort in the post against a team that doesn't play anyone over 6'8" for significant periods of time.  The script for winning this game included some domination in the paint, and while the Gamecocks didn't do it as a whole, the Big Melon certainly did it here.

2. The rest of the post didn't really deliver. While Laimonas played a great game, the combined stat line for Demetrius Henry, Michael Carrera, and Mindaugas Kacinas was as follows -

  • 50 minutes (v. 30 minutes for Chat)
  • 9 points (v. 15 for Chat, with Henry scoring zero)
  • 4 rebounds (v. 11 for Chat, with Henry grabbing zero)
  • 5 turnovers (v. 2 for Chat)
  • 1 block (v. 2 for Chat)
There were clearly post opportunities available to exploit, but Auburn shut down the rest of the post.  While the defense was decent despite not registering blocks - although the fouling, either real or imagined by the officials, killed the Gamecocks - there simply wasn't enough from these guys to get away with a win.

3.  We needed one more player. The Big Three - Duane Notice, Sindarius Thornwell, and Tyrone Johnson - all played fine enough, and as we noted above, Chatkevicius was great.  But the Gamecocks needed a fifth player, and they really couldn't find one.  The post came up empty, and Marcus Stroman turned the ball over three times against just two assists without doing anything from the field (1-3 shooting).  Justin McKie was completely ineffective in 10 minutes, not even taking a shot and registering just one rebound in the entire box score.

The Gamecocks have put together a decent amount of talent, and that talent should've been enough to win on Saturday.  But if enough guys don't bring it to the gym, they can't win.  On Saturday night, four guys showed up.  They needed five.