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MBB: Gamecocks on the wrong end of comeback

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS MEN’S BASKETBALL

The Gamecocks flipped the script Saturday, but not in a good way, losing to Mississippi State 76-61.

South Carolina had made a name for itself this season with its ability to overcome double-digit deficits. Five times in conference play, it had trailed by at least ten points and come back to win. After South Carolina trailed 13-2 to Ole Miss and came back to win, Frank Martin talked about his confidence in his team even when trailing, but, he added, “I’d rather be up 13-2.”

He almost got his wish. South Carolina started out strong, and Mississippi State couldn’t buy a basket in the first half. Mississippi State missed its first six shots, and ten of its first 11, as South Carolina built a 17-4 lead. The lead got to as much as 16, the largest lead in conference play this season for South Carolina, but by the end of the half, cracks were showing.

South Carolina failed to get Chris Silva involved before he went to the bench late in the half with two fouls. Maik Kotsar (two) and Felipe Haase (three) were also saddled with foul trouble. South Carolina wasn’t getting to the line or making its free throws, and Mississippi State was. Then, Mississippi State made four of its final six shots and ended the half on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to just seven at the break.

The Bulldogs caught fire to start the second half, making eight of their first ten shots after making just eight of 24 in the first half. It was the Gamecocks’ turn to go cold, as it went 8-25 in the second half. The Gamecocks were unable to create offense, relying too much on A.J. Lawson’s ability to make shots. They never figured out how to get the ball to Silva. He attempted just six shots, and only two in the second half, when they should have forced the ball to him. And, as Martin has been saying, the threes stopped falling at a crazy rate.

South Carolina went 9-21, 43 percent from three. It was a good percentage, but not the 50 or 60 percent it had been hitting recently. It was, as Martin warned, not enough to cover up other problems, like bad defense.

Behind Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State barely cooled off in the second half. Weatherspoon scored seven points during a 12-0 run that turned a two-point Mississippi State deficit into a ten-point lead. Weatherspoon didn’t score the rest of the second half, but he didn’t have to. Forward Reggie Perry scored 17 of his 21 in the second half, and had the answer any time South Carolina started to make a push. Mississippi State shot 65 percent in the second half, including 6-10 from three.

South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament hopes took a major hit with the loss. Not only is it a loss, but Mississippi State was one of only two teams left on the schedule expected to make the tournament, so South Carolina lost out on a much-needed quality win.

Notes:

Lawson led South Carolina with 18 points. … Tre Campbell tied his career-high with seven assists. … South Carolina shot just 8-16 from the foul line. … Kotsar, who scored a career-high 25 against the Bulldogs last time, had 13 points and five rebounds. … Silva finished with five points, two blocks, and one rebound. … South Carolina returns to action Tuesday against Alabama.

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