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MBB: South Carolina can't complete comeback against Alabama

SOUTH CAROLINA MEN'S BASKETBALL

South Carolina’s attempt for its sixth double-digit comeback came up short against Alabama, 68-62.


South Carolina chipped away at the 13-point first half deficit, finally taking the lead on a pair of Chris Silva free throws. They were part of a 14-2 run that saw South Carolina end up taking a five point lead. But South Carolina lost A.J. Lawson to an apparent sprained ankle during the run, and the offense sputtered.


Defensively, the Gamecocks gave up key baskets as well. Kira Lewis made a pair of free throws to put Alabama up for good, 58-57 with 3:33 left. Silva missed a shot, and then Donta Hall converted a three-point play. And then, because it couldn’t end any other way, Riley Norris stole a weak pass at midcourt and cruised in for a dunk to cap an 11-1 run.

“We just couldn’t recover,” from that, Frank Martin said.

Norris, the fifth-year senior who seemingly has been tormenting South Carolina for years, finished with 11 points, all in the second half. Lewis led Alabama with 17 points, and Hall had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

When Lawson went down, the Gamecocks were shooting 9-18 in the second half and holding the Crimson Tide to 6-17. In the final 8:24 without Lawson, the Gamecocks shot just 4-14 and allowed the Tide to shoot 5-8, and were outscored 19-13. After the game, Silva said that somebody had to step up in Lawson’s absence, but the truth is the Gamecocks are simply running out of players.

“It seems like guys are dropping left and right,” Gravett said.

With Lawson out, Avery Johnson felt comfortable playing more zone defense, along with a sagging man that disrupted South Carolina.

“When he’s on the floor he stretches the floor,” Johnson said. “When he’s not on the floor we can zone a little bit more and pack it in.”

South Carolina bounced back from a miserable shooting first half. Silva began the game with a dunk, but then it was all downhill. South Carolina missed 26 of its next 29 shots as it started the game 4-30 from the floor. For those scoring at home, that is 13.3 percent. South Carolina defended well, and perhaps surprisingly given the recent struggles, made 10-12 free throws in the first half to keep the game from getting out of hand.

The Gamecocks rushed, taking quick shots instead of running their offense. And when the misses started to pile up, they started playing one-on-one basketball instead of getting everyone involved. Silva was getting double and triple teamed, but none of the other Gamecocks were making themselves available for open shots.

“We had a problem executing,” Silva said. “That’s it.”

South Carolina began to settle down in the final three minutes. It got Hassani Gravett open for a three, and then A.J. lawson made a free throw. Silva added a pair, and then Kotsar and Silva added baskets as South Carolina finished the half on a 10-3 run, making its last three shots.

“I was good at halftime,” Martin said. “I was real positive. I told the guys your grit and determination has put us in a place where we can win in the second half.”

Silva finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four rebounds, but didn’t get enough help. Gravett had 12 points, but shot just 5-15. Lawson had nine points and five assists before leaving, and Tre Campbell had nine. Keyshawn Bryant had five points and six rebounds.

Notes:

Bryant’s reputation for explosive dunks has gotten to the point where the Colonial Life Arena crowd goes nuts as soon as Bryant gets into the open court, in anticipation of what will happen. It backfired once Tuesday when Bryant had a breakaway dunk that he bobbled on the way up, leading to a turnover. … Alabama had a 43-37 edge on the glass. … In his return to Columbia, Alabama’s Tevin Mack seemed to press at times, but finished with 11 points. … South Carolina went 18-23 from the line. Alabama was 14-22, but made 5-6 in the final minute when South Carolina had to foul to prolong the game. … Alanzo Frink rolled his ankle in practice Monday. He tried to play Tuesday, playing two minutes, but was unable to go. … With Lawson and Frink out by the end of the game, South Carolina had just six scholarship players. … Announced attendance was 11,164. … South Carolina’s next game is Saturday at Missouri.