"At times this game has been allergic to flow."
SEC Network broadcaster Mike Morgan uttered that sentence just a few minutes into the second half of LSU's 64-58 win over South Carolina.
With the loss the Gamecocks have officially lost four in a row and six of their last seven games. I think I'm going to tell ChickenHoops I have an allergy to South Carolina basketball and that I can't write anymore.
Kidding (kind of). I'm overreacting. It wasn't an all-around terrible performance by the home team. They were in it from the very beginning, only down by one at halftime (29-28), and the 6-point loss is South Carolina's fourth SEC loss this season by two possessions or less.
The Gamecocks 11 first-half rebounds and Swiss-knife defense highlighted an impressive first half. If South Carolina hadn't shot 28 percent from the field and gone 5:57 without a point, they would have led, and possibly by a lot. They were a much more impressive team than LSU in the first half.
In the second half, the Gamecocks got off to nice start going 4-of-7 from the field to grab the lead and increase it to six, 40-34 with 15:15 remaining. LSU went on a 5-0 run to get the game back within a point and after that it was a back-and-forth duel until the buzzer sounded. South Carolina often switched between man-to-man and zone but I thought the Gamecocks played zone a little more than they needed to and LSU took advantage of it at times. Brian Steele played and it was terrible as usual. However that was masked by the Lithuanians who gave a solid second half effort. Junior forward Mindaugas Kacinas had all six of his points in consecutive possessions.
With just under four minutes to play, the Gamecocks held a 56-52 lead before LSU point guard Josh Gray hit a 3-pointer to bring the Tigers within one. After a few defensive lapses and a Jarell Martin dunk, South Carolina found themselves on the other side, down by one with about a minute left. Tyrone Johnson almost dribbled the ball into the Earth and then put up a lay-up with only a few seconds left on the shot clock. Like he had done so many times already that night, Jordan Mickey blocked the layup, sending it off the backboard and into the hands of Michael Carrera where the shot clock then went off.
Miraculously, South Carolina got the ball back with just around 30 seconds to play after forcing LSU into a 5-second violation on an out-of-bounds pass. Inbounding from under the basket, the Gamecocks tried a play that had worked beautifully earlier in the game. The ball came to Laimonas Chatkevicius in the high post where he found a back-cutting Marcus Stroman darting towards the basket. Stroman caught the pass, layed it up, and it was blocked, this time by Keith Hornsby.
LSU got the ball back and the Gamecocks fouled Gray, sending him to the line for two shots. He made the first but missed the second, leaving the Gamecocks with an opportunity, down only two with 22 seconds left, but LSU forward Jordan Mickey beat Kacinas to grab the board.
An offensive rebound, a stat the Gamecocks had filled up in their last two outings, was the icing on the cake of their fourth consecutive loss. South Carolina finished with 40 rebounds to LSU's 32 and the guys in Garnet and Black grabbed 19 offensive boards, yet the Tigers seventh offensive board proved to be the fatal dosage for the Gamecocks.
LSU was propelled by some spectacular performances from their forward duo as well as their unsung hero and a possible SEC Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Jarell Martin finished with a double-double, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with 10 points, three assists, and a career-high six blocks. Jordan Mickey finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and six blocks. That's right Martin and Mickey combined for a dozen blocks! Crazy. Hornsby scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a very key block. Off the bench, sophomore guard Tim Quarterman scored a game-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting but also added five rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
The Gamecocks shot 34.4 percent compared to LSU's 45.8 percent. South Carolina's three best players (Sindarius Thornwell, Tyrone Johnson, Duane Notice) combined for 33 points but shot a combined 10-of-38 from the field. Junior forward Michael Carrera had another strong performance, contributing nine points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks.
Demetrius Henry and Justin McKie missed the game due to concussions they suffered in practice this week and no updates have been given on their status. The Gamecocks next game is this Saturday when they return to Colonial Life Arena to take on the Georgia Bulldogs at 4pm ET.