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South Carolina misses opportunity, falls 70-63 to No. 14 Texas Tech

The Gamecocks just couldn’t get it done in crunch time.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks went on a scoring drought at the worst possible time, losing a late-game lead as No. 14 Texas Tech Red Raiders took advantage for a 70-63 win on Saturday in Columbia in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

The game largely played out like you’d expect with two defense-oriented teams going at it: Both squads endured long stretches without making a basket, and the physical play resulted in numerous foul calls (which was aided by some rather creative officiating at times).

The first half was a tit-for-tat affair, with the Red Raiders taking a 30-26 lead to the locker room thanks to Justin Minaya’s ill-advised foul on a 3-point attempt. But Minaya made good in the second half, helping Frank Booker power a push that put South Carolina in front. Even Felipe Haase got in on the action, draining a 3 to give the Gamecocks (13-8) a five-point lead.

And then South Carolina went cold, unable to execute down the stretch. Texas Tech (17-4) closed the game on a 13-2 run, led by Keenan Evans’ game-high 31 points. Wes Myers, who had been a hero for the Gamecocks in recent contests, missed two key free throws late and only scored two points in a forgettable performance.

Chris Silva, as usual, led South Carolina with 16 points. Minaya and Haase added 11, Booker scored nine, and Maik Kotsar chipped in seven while struggling with cramps.

This is the kind of game you really, really hate to lose. Thanks to their recent performance against ranked teams, the Gamecocks have been hovering just outside of the Top 25 and NCAA Tournament discussion. A win against a top-15 squad like Texas Tech would have gone a long way toward gaining momentum and credibility, so this result is undeniably a missed opportunity. Throw in the fact South Carolina played this game at home and was leading with about two minutes to go, and it’s a tough one to take.

Up next: South Carolina hosts Mississippi State on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.