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South Carolina can’t complete comeback, falls 69-64 to Arkansas in second round of SEC Tournament

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Close, but no cigar for the Gamecocks.

Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks mounted a late rally to draw within two points of the sixth-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks, but their comeback bid fell short in a 69-64 defeat in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday in St. Louis.

The Hogs’ dynamic duo of Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford tore the Gamecocks up for a combined 49 points in the teams’ previous meeting, but South Carolina held them largely in check for 29 in this one. However, both guards came up with big plays down the stretch to seal the win for Arkansas, with Barford hitting a key 3-pointer and Macon nailing a pair of free throws that iced it.

Speaking of free throws, the Razorbacks made their living from the charity stripe, drawing 26 attempts and hitting 23 of them. At one point late in the first half, Arkansas went on a 10-2 run without making a field goal. South Carolina, in contrast, made 10 of its 16 attempts, missing some at key moments. The Hogs also harassed the Gamecocks into 19 turnovers and racked up seven blocks, never letting South Carolina get too comfortable once it appeared the Gamecocks were finding a rhythm.

Chris Silva notched his third straight double-double, leading South Carolina with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Maik Kotsar matched him with 15 points, continuing his solid SEC Tournament performance, and Frank Booker was the only other Gamecock in double digits with 11.

With the exit, South Carolina finishes 17-16, at least assured of a winning season despite the team’s disappointing struggles after last season’s Final Four. As conference tournaments wrap up, the Gamecocks will await their postseason fate with an NIT bid on the line. They absolutely had to have that victory against Ole Miss, but a win against Arkansas would have looked even better, and South Carolina has to hope there aren’t too many crazy upsets to crowd them out of the NIT picture.