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South Carolina blows 14-point first half lead en route to 83-76 loss to Arkansas

A bubble team gets a big win on the Colonial Life Arena floor.

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It may not be time to completely sound the alarm for the South Carolina Gamecocks, but after an 83-76 loss to Arkansas, some fans probably can’t help but wonder if the team is bound for another disappointing late-season finish.

South Carolina jumped out to a 19-5 lead with 14:18 left to play in the first half - but the Razorbacks swiftly turned the tables after that. With 5:50 left, that 19-5 Gamecocks lead was a 30-21 deficit as the Hogs went on a torrid 25-2 run, thanks in part to five three-pointers in that timespan as Carolina’s perimeter defense failed them once more. The Gamecocks followed with a 9-0 run to tie it, but Arkansas went on another sustained run to take a 39-32 lead to the locker room.

A slow start out of the half saw Carolina go down as much as 47-35 with 18:52 left in regulation, but they would battle back to get within striking distance. Arkansas appeared to have an answer for every Gamecocks charge, however, and despite seeing their lead drop to one on several occasions, Dusty Hannahs helped keep the visitors out of harm’s way with twelve second-half points. Carolina’s last gasp cut it to 77-76 with 63 seconds left before a very, very late-in-the-shot-clock bucket by Arkansas’ Manuale Watkins with 29 seconds left and a scrum underneath the Gamecocks’ basket that ended up as an empty possession spoiled the comeback.

Jaylen Barford was the Hogs’ top scorer with 23 points as his team finished 7-14 from beyond the arc. Sindarius Thornwell ended the night with another player of the year-type performance (27 points on 10-19 shooting) while Duane Notice chipped in with 14. Chris Silva had a strong 16-point effort in one of his better nights of the season but fouled out, which stemmed the Gamecocks’ comeback hopes. PJ Dozier scored nine points but turned it over four times and was saddled with foul trouble himself.

South Carolina’s next game - at Vanderbilt on Saturday - becomes that much more critical with tonight’s loss as the committee begins to study tournament-worthy teams in the late season, and a defeat to a team with an RPI of 64 will be painful with a contest against a hot Florida squad and a true bubble team, Tennessee, following after that. Saturday night’s game against Vandy tips at 8:30 ET on the SEC Network.