On the court again after an extended layoff for exams, the South Carolina Gamecocks struggled to get back up to speed against No. 5 Virginia, falling 69-52 to the unbeaten Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Much like their game against Michigan, the Gamecocks played a promising first half, mounting a late run and challenging the Cavaliers when Alanzo Frink’s unlikely 3-pointer brought the score to 27-26. But Virginia answered by cranking up its defense, controlling the last few minutes of the half to take a 33-26 lead to the locker room.
South Carolina kept battling, though, pressuring the Cavaliers again early in the second half when a Felipe Haase 3 made it 35-31. But Virginia’s defense continued to rebuff USC’s attempts to get back in the game, and the Gamecocks could get no closer the rest of the way. South Carolina shot just 36 percent, and a dismal 3-of-18 from behind the arc as it trailed by many as 19 points.
The Gamecocks did out-rebound the Cavaliers (37-33), and made nine of their 13 free throw attempts (oddly, the same as Virginia). However, the familiar nemesis of foul trouble reared its ugly head yet again, as Chris Silva was hampered by it and posted just 11 points to lead South Carolina. Hassani Gravett was the only other Gamecock in double figures (10), although Frink (nine points, eight rebounds) showed some intriguing potential in his best game yet in the Garnet and Black.
It’s worth noting the Gamecocks were down two starters for the contest: Justin Minaya, who had knee surgery last month and is still recovering, and Maik Kotsar, who is apparently dealing with a concussion and is out indefinitely. South Carolina was also missing depth in the form of freshman T.J. Moss, shelved with a sprained ankle. Of course, the presence of any or even all of these players wouldn’t have guaranteed a victory, but the last thing South Carolina needed in a matchup this challenging was a depleted roster.
Up next, the Gamecocks (4-6) welcome their favorite Tiger team to Colonial Life Arena on Saturday. And hey, maybe the football team can get a little revenge on the Hoos in nine days...