The South Carolina Gamecocks couldn’t pull the big road upset, but showed some encouraging mettle in an 89-78 loss to the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday afternoon.
The game got off to a pretty good start for South Carolina, as the Wolverines were sloppy with the basketball, which allowed the Gamecocks to keep pace with them offensively. Michigan eventually tightened up its play and went on a 13-2 run near the end of the half, but South Carolina did enough to stay afloat and only trailed by six, 42-36, at the break.
Much like the Gamecocks’ loss to Wyoming, though, the second half was their undoing. Michigan star Jordan Poole heated up, scoring 19 of his 26 points, and while the Wolverines never went on a big run to put South Carolina away, they nonetheless kept the Gamecocks at arm’s length. Foul trouble hamstrung South Carolina, as Michigan shot 30 free throws to the Gamecocks’ 14, and converted 77 percent of them. The Wolverines also out-rebounded South Carolina, collecting 38 boards to USC’s 24.
On the bright side, the Gamecocks’ 78 points were the most Michigan’s lockdown defense has allowed all year, and South Carolina shot an impressive 52 percent from the field (including 5-of-11 from behind the arc).
Chris Silva was the standout for the Gamecocks, scoring 18 points and collecting 12 rebounds in a showing that finally resembled the kind of play he’s capable of. Fellow veteran big man Maik Kotsar also had a big game with 16 points, and promising freshmen A.J. Lawson (10 points) and Keyshawn Bryant (13) showed out as well, with the latter throwing down an impressive dunk.
Up next, South Carolina faces another heavyweight in fourth-ranked Virginia on Dec. 19, although that game is at least in Columbia. Until then, the Gamecocks are off for exams. At least they can carry this encouraging performance with them into the break.