Get ready for more fingernail biting, speculation, worry, and “did they do enough?” for the next 48 hours. For the second year in a row, the South Carolina Gamecocks’ stay in the SEC Tournament lasted but a single game as Alabama pulled away late for a 64-53 win at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The Crimson Tide move on to face top-seeded Kentucky tomorrow afternoon at 1pm ET, while the Gamecocks await word from the selection committee of their postseason fate.
It was fair to think that a win would be enough to push the Gamecocks into sure-thing territory, especially with the Wildcats having already punched their ticket to Saturday’s semifinals. But South Carolina was never really able to get into an offensive flow all afternoon long. They did hold a 37-36 lead with 12:50 remaining in regulation, but basically spun its wheels the entire game - especially in the second half, where the Tide shot 57.1% to Carolina’s 39.1%. Alabama also held a +15 advantage on the glass as the Gamecocks’ bigs were a non-factor on the scoreboard and in the rebounding column. Despite being held without a field goal for the final 3:11, the Tide were able to end the game on a 10-0 run - all from the line - as the Gamecocks couldn’t turn the tables despite being only down 54-53 in the latter stages.
Sindarius Thornwell was the top scorer for South Carolina with 16 points, while PJ Dozier dropped in 15. Rakym Felder had an OK day off the bench with 10 points on 4-7 shooting in 23 minutes. But they needed more, and didn’t get it: Duane Notice was scoreless and only attempted two shots in 31 minutes played, while Maik Kotsar (two points, 1-4 from the field, three boards) and Chris Silva (six points, 1-4 from the field, five rebounds) only contributed bit parts. Frank Martin started Hassani Gravett over Maik Kotsar in an attempt to go with a smaller lineup to open the game, but it didn’t pay off as the redshirt sophomore was scoreless in six minutes. Those performances aren’t good enough in a conference tournament game, let alone in the field of 68.
There will be a lot of hand-wringing until the seedings are announced on Sunday evening on CBS. And if the Gamecocks aren’t one of the teams chosen, they’ll sadly only have themselves to blame.