Levi Randolph did what Frank Martin expected him to do. After losing to South Carolina last month on the road, he figured the senior guard wouldn't let the Gamecocks come into his home and leave with a season sweep of the Tide.
"Give a lot of credit to Levi Randolph," said Martin. "We battled to tie the game after being so atrocious to start the second half. Levi does what seniors do. Protect the home court and put the team on their back."
Randolph scored a team-high 17 points to along with six rebounds and five assists in Alabama's 59-51 victory over South Carolina last night.
The atrocious start Martin mentioned was the 19-11 start Alabama got off to in the second half that put them up by eight after being tied at 22 during halftime. That run was capped by a Jimmie Taylors slam with 12:56 to play. After that moment, the Gamecocks rallied to tie the game at 44 with 8:31 left. From that moment, Alabama and Randolph took over. The Tide outscored the Gamecocks 15-7 down the stretch with Randolph scoring seven of the 15 points. South Carolina managed one field goal in the final five minutes of the ball game. Another scoring drought killed USC, now making it the official characteristic of the 2014-15 South Carolina basketball team.
South Carolina led for much of the first half, capitalizing on second chance opportunities to gain their lead. Eleven of the Gamecocks first 16 points were second chance points. They couldn't sustain the offense after Alabama closed the door on those chances.
"I think they did a good job of not allowing us to get the ball inside," said Duane Notice. "They protected us from getting the ball to our bigs. As guards, we have to be more aggressive on the perimeter, make shots and attack the zone. I think their length and speed was the factor for them against us."
Notice canned four 3-pointers on his way to 16 points last night. Laimonas Chatkevicius had a game-high 18 points to go along with nine rebounds to lead South Carolina. Sindarius Thornwell had a rough night, shooting 2-of-14 from the field for four points. Sin went 0-of-8 from behind the arc.
The Gamecocks and Tide split the season series but the Gamecocks haven't won in T-Town since 2009 and Alabama has won seven of the last eight games between the schools on their home court. Although the teams have now split the last six meetings. The eight-point margin of victory makes it the 12th consecutive game between the two teams that has been decided by 10 points or less.
South Carolina (13-14, 4-11) next plays Saturday night when they host Mississippi State. The Bulldogs (12-15, 5-9) sit one game ahead of the Gamecocks in the SEC standings. The game tips-off at 6 p.m. ET in Colonial Life Arena.