For the second game in a row, the South Carolina Gamecocks again failed to climb out of a hole, this time unable to complete their comeback bid against Alabama in a disappointing 68-62 loss on Tuesday in Columbia.
USC, which has made a habit of getting off to a rough start and then turning it around just in the nick of time, followed its usual pattern in the first half. The Gamecocks missed 14 straight field goals during one particularly brutal stretch, and it was only Alabama’s similar scoring difficulties that kept the game within reach at a manageable 31-25 halftime deficit.
South Carolina made its move about halfway through the second period, when Chris Silva, Hassani Gravett, and A.J. Lawson teamed up to help the Gamecocks tie the score at 49. But Lawson rolled his ankle going up for the go-ahead basket, and left the game with about eight minutes remaining. While the teams battled it out and swapped baskets for the next couple minutes, the Gamecocks then allowed a back-breaking 7-0 Tide run with only two minutes left, and Alabama wrapped up its fourth straight win in the series.
Silva led USC with another double-double, putting up 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, while Gravett was the only other Gamecock who hit double figures (12 points). Tre Campbell and Lawson each finished with nine.
The Gamecocks shot just 30.8 percent from the field, a season low, and went 4 of 19 from 3-point range — a marked departure from how well South Carolina’s been shooting from distance over the past month or so. USC had a better performance than usual from the foul line, going 18 of 23, but also lost the rebounding battle 43-37.
Even worse, the Gamecocks may have lost Lawson for the time being. Coach Frank Martin said he’d be evaluated, but as of now, his status for Saturday is in question.
It probably goes without saying that the “Go down big, then erase that deficit and somehow win anyway” method is hardly the most reliable or sustainable approach. But it was managing to work for South Carolina until the past couple games, and as the Gamecocks’ NCAA Tournament hopes appear all but dead, we may be seeing the side effects of fatigue and a lack of veteran depth creeping in.
South Carolina (14-14, 9-6 SEC) travels to Missouri on Saturday.