The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: South Carolina can't execute late in 81-78 loss to No. 11 Alabama

Sophomore forward/center Wildens Leveque holds the ball while Alabama players attempt to steal. South Carolina lost 81-78.
Sophomore forward/center Wildens Leveque holds the ball while Alabama players attempt to steal. South Carolina lost 81-78.

No. 11 Alabama defeated the South Carolina's men's basketball team 81-78 on Tuesday night as the Gamecocks hosted their first ranked opponent of the year. The Gamecocks battled from start to finish, but 3-point shooting and second-chance points were the reason for their sixth SEC loss.

South Carolina started on a 16-5 run. This was its first lead of the game, primarily due to making two of its first four 3-point attempts. The Gamecocks would finish the game 6-of-25 from behind the arc. Junior guard A.J. Lawson made five of those, finishing the game with 21 total points.

Alabama didn't allow the Gamecocks to hold onto their double-digit lead for much longer, as the team responded with a 13-2 run of its own. The Crimson Tide took a 39-36 lead at the break, due in large part to its domination on the offensive boards. The team led that stat at an 11-5 tilt, allowing them to outscore the Gamecocks 14-2 on second-chance points.

South Carolina came into the second half with loads of energy, led by redshirt junior forward Justin Minaya. The Gamecocks trailed by only 4 points at the under-eight media timeout thanks to his 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.

“I understand ... the energy that Frank Martin needs, and what Frank Martin basketball is,” Minaya said postgame.

A 4:20 field goal-less drought for Alabama to finish the game allowed it to go down to the last possession. The Gamecocks cut the Crimson Tide lead all the way down to 3 points with a minute remaining.

Following how well his team shot from inside the perimeter Tuesday, redshirt senior guard Seventh Woods took a jumper with 17 seconds remaining and missed, giving the Crimson Tide yet another chance to put it away.

“That’s not the shot we wanted,” head coach Frank Martin said. “We couldn’t execute the simplicity of what we asked during that possession.”

South Carolina had yet another chance after a tie-up from a Lawson miss. It took an open two under the basket instead of a three to tie it up with two seconds remaining.

“We ran something where there were three different options for a 3-point shot, and Alabama stood around the 3-point line, and instead of running what we asked to run, we just kind of had no mental connection with the situation,” Martin said.

The Gamecocks had one last chance for the win, but junior forward Keyshawn Bryant could not find an open man on the inbound.

A minute full of chances, and the Gamecocks could not capitalize on one. The story of their season: struggling with execution.

The loss moved South Carolina to 3-6 in SEC play. The team will be back in action Saturday when it hosts Ole Miss at 6 p.m.