The 2021 season is now in the books for the Gamecock men’s basketball team, following a 76-59 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
The game was tight to start. Halfway through the first half, the game was tied up. South Carolina came out shooting 7-17, while Ole Miss hit 5-14.
The Rebels jumped to a 6-point lead capped off by a put-back dunk by junior forward KJ Buffen.
The Gamecocks’ inability to score during the last five minutes of the first half put them in a hole. They went cold and ended the first half 0-7 from the field. Overall, in the half, they shot 9-31, including 1-9 from the 3-point line, and left many points off the board at the free throw line, shooting 7-12.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss got to the foul line and improved its shooting percentage. At halftime, the team had a 15-point lead thanks to shooting 13-26 from the floor, 3-4 from 3-point land and 12-14 from the free-throw line.
The Gamecocks cut the Rebels' lead to 9 thanks to an 8-0 run early in the second half.
Ole Miss put a stop to that quickly and locked South Carolina down to open its lead back up.
From that point, the Rebels slowed the game down and used most of the shot clock to close the game out and seal the victory.
“[We] got bit by the same bug that's bit us all year,” head coach Frank Martin said postgame. “[We were] just not physical enough."
From the floor, the Gamecocks shot 35.6%, and they shot 18.2% from the 3-point line. Meanwhile, the Rebels shot 48.3% from the floor for the game and 33.3% from the 3-point line. Ole Miss won the rebounding battle 41-32 to limit any extra South Carolina possessions.
Rebel junior guard Jarkel Joiner scored a game-high 18 points. Graduate forward Romello White added 17 points of his own and seven rebounds for Ole Miss.
Sophomore forward Jalyn McCreary scored 15 points for the Gamecocks, and sophomore forward-center Wildens Leveque added 14 points and six rebounds.
This loss marks the official end to the 6-15 season.
“It’s been hard — it’s been a real taxing year,” Martin said. “If I’m wanted, this is where I want to call home ... I fixed this program. And I know what’s not working this year, but the program ain’t broke.”
The Gamecocks' leading scorer, junior guard AJ Lawson, was recently announced as a player on this year’s All-SEC second team and is the fourth-leading scorer in the conference. After the game, he addressed the issues the team has heading into next season.
“They're definitely fixable. Everyone just has to buy in; pay attention to details; listen to coach Frank when he needs us; and I feel like they can be easy fixes,” Lawson said.