Despite the 82-71 loss in the regular-season finale against No. 5 Auburn, South Carolina displayed signs of grit and tenacity to give fans something to look forward to in the SEC tournament.
Senior guard Jermaine Cousinard led the Gamecocks with 22 points and three rebounds. Couisnard found much of his success at the free-throw line, shooting 75% with a total of nine made free throws.
"The seniors just know that this is one of their last times playing on the court," Cousinard said. "We just feel like we have nothing to lose."
Throughout the game, South Carolina had multiple attempts to fight back and close the Auburn lead. The Tigers were a challenge to defend from three-point range and made 10 of its 23 shots. Auburn's Jabari Smith led his team in points scored and continued to counter the Gamecocks attack.
"They're a good team," head coach Frank Martin said. "They're aggressive and then obviously they make threes."
Playing on the road continues to be a problem for South Carolina. Eight of the 12 losses for the Gamecocks have come from away games. Although this can be an issue, South Carolina has kept itself in contention for the postseason.
"We just came into the building that probably has the best home-court environment in the SEC right now," Martin said. "We went nose-to-nose with them."
Although the regular season might have come to an end for South Carolina, this team is not finished yet. It moves to 18-12 on the year and 9-9 in the SEC. The SEC tournament will take place in Tampa, Florida this year and will begin on March 9.
"We just got to separate from the regular season," Martin said. "We gotta utilize the next 48 hours to rest our bodies a little bit — it's been a dog fight of a conference season — and be excited for the opportunity to play games hopefully for us on Thursday."
The Gamecocks will play No. 10 seeded Mississippi State in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday March 10 at 6 p.m.
Editors note: Information regarding South Carolina's first round opponent of the SEC Tournament was updated on March 6 at 1:15 a.m.