Christmas did not come early for the South Carolina Gamecocks, as their losing streak stretched to four games and they dropped their third straight contest to heated rival Clemson in a 78-68 loss on Saturday in Columbia.
Things actually started out pretty well for the Gamecocks, as they jumped out to an early lead and weathered a Clemson response to keep the game tied at 25. But then the Tigers really heated up, thanks largely to veteran guard Marcquise Reed, who led all scorers with 20 points. Spurred by Reed, the Tigers made a ridiculous 14 of their last 19 field goals to close the first half on a 16-7 run, shooting at a 62 percent clip.
Unfortunately, it was more of the same to start the second half, as the short-handed Gamecocks — lacking starters Maik Kotsar, T.J. Moss, and Justin Minaya — struggled to keep pace with the Tigers and play some defense. Perhaps even more frustrating, the foul differential was wildly in South Carolina’s favor for nearly half of the second period, but the Gamecocks’ poor performance at the free-throw line prevented them from taking advantage.
Nonetheless, South Carolina continued to battle, and the Gamecocks whittled down a 16-point deficit to just five on a bucket from Chris Silva (18 points, seven rebounds) with 44.1 seconds left. But free throws and a dunk sealed it for the Tigers, who emerged victorious for the third straight year in the rivalry series.
Apart from Silva, Hassani Gravett had another nice day off the bench, providing 14 points, and freshman Keyshawn Bryant flashed some more potential with 10. It was a rough outing for fellow rookie A.J. Lawson, though, who has been leading the Gamecocks offensively but came up with just eight points on 2-of-15 shooting from the field.
Up next, South Carolina (4-7) is off for a holiday break before returning to action against North Greenville on Dec. 31.