The South Carolina Gamecocks finally got their first taste of adversity in 2019, when they put their perfect conference record on the line against the LSU Tigers and came away with a resounding 89-67 defeat on Saturday night.
Winners of their past five games and at the top of the SEC standings with a 4-0 record, the Gamecocks came into Baton Rouge with confidence. But they’d also played three games in less than a week and were on the second stop of a road swing — and most importantly, they were facing a team that was red hot in its own right. LSU, undefeated at home and on a six (now seven) game winning streak, sported a perfect SEC mark, too.
The Tigers looked exactly like their record and every bit the superior team almost from the word go. After both teams battled to an 11-all tie by the first media timeout, LSU then hit the gas, opening up a nine-point lead on the strength of some hot shooting (67 percent) as the Gamecocks mustered little to challenge it. South Carolina was also sloppy and careless with the ball, committing 10 turnovers and giving up 12 points off of them in the first half to find themselves in a deep 48-28 hole at the buzzer.
Coming out of the locker room, things didn’t get much better, as the Tigers raced off to another scorching start from the field. To their credit, the Gamecocks didn’t completely fold, eventually putting together a run to keyed by A.J. Lawson — who led the Gamecocks with 18 points — and fellow freshman Keyshawn Bryant, who posted 10. Other top performers for USC included Hassani Gravett (nine points) and Felipe Haase (eight). Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar, who had been so critical for the Gamecocks in their recent run of success, had quiet nights with 13 points and seven rebounds between them.
Tellingly, South Carolina was slaughtered on the boards, grabbing just 29 rebounds to LSU’s 49. The Gamecocks finished with a respectable 43.8 percent shooting performance, but were dismal from beyond the arc (5 of 19) and struggled at the free-throw line (6 of 14), to say nothing of the 16 turnovers that bedeviled them early.
It’s a disappointing loss, and the score makes things look much worse than they likely are — again, this team played three games in six days due to Missouri’s travel issues, and South Carolina had some dead legs as a result. But realistically, the Gamecocks couldn’t have kept this going forever anyway. LSU is a quality team, and South Carolina will be at home again on Tuesday, albeit against a fourteenth-ranked Auburn squad. We’ll see how the Gamecocks can respond after their first challenge of the new year.