The environment was electric and the basketball was energetic, but the South Carolina men’s basketball team didn’t have enough juice. The team struggled to hit shots and it ultimately led to a 86-76 loss to No. 5 Kentucky on Tuesday night.
The Gamecocks struggled to find the bottom of the net from the start of the game. In the first half, the team shot 35% from the floor and went 1-9 from three to shoot 11%.
Despite these struggles, the Gamecocks found themselves down only five points at halftime.
South Carolina managed to stay within striking distance in the half thanks to a dominating effort on the offensive glass with 11 offensive rebounds. The team also capitalized off Kentucky’s 10 first-half turnovers, scoring 14 points off turnovers.
In the second half, the Gamecocks' shooting struggles continued. Meanwhile, on the other side of the court, Kentucky started hitting its shots at a higher rate.
South Carolina fought through this and managed to tie the game up five minutes into the new half.
A few moments later Kentucky pulled away after going on an 8-0 run powered by fast break opportunities. From this point, South Carolina never managed to close the gap. The Gamecocks failed to execute and continued to miss their shots making it impossible to tie the game back up.
”Like I said, it was just more of a who brought juice, who didn’t towards the last 16 minutes of the game,” senior forward Keyshawn Bryant said.
Head coach Frank Martin was not disappointed in this game because of his team’s inability to knock down buckets. Instead, he said he feels the team had no juice and started to get away from the identity it spent all season creating.
“When your team does not play with an identity that it's fought to create I get worried about that,” Martin said. “If you don’t have an identity that you play with every time you take the court, that's a problem. And we didn’t have that today, that’s what bothers me.”
Martin cited the team’s pick and roll defense and transition defense as two points where the team did not give enough effort. The Gamecocks allowed 26 fast breakpoints for the game.
“Our ball screen defense was embarrassingly bad and our transition defense, you know, Oscar outran us three times down the floor for dunks, like, how does that happen?” Martin said. “The dude's on the glass every single shot, so if he’s on the glass how does he outrun us down the court?”
Bryant had his best performance of the season in this game. He earned a double-double by scoring 18 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Redshirt junior guard Jermaine Couisnard and junior forward Wildens Leveque were the only other Gamecocks to score double figures, finishing with 17 and 16 respectively.
The Gamecocks fall to 13-10 on the season and 4-7 in the conference. Five of the team’s next six games will come against teams with a below .500 conference record, giving South Carolina a good opportunity to capture a few more wins before the SEC tournament in March.
The team’s next game will be in Athens when the team travels to play Georgia on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC network.