South Carolina men’s basketball has been eliminated from the SEC tournament in its first game following a 73-51 loss to No. 10 seed Mississippi State on Thursday. The Gamecocks were unable to hit anything in the second half after an efficient first half shooting display.
South Carolina finished the game missing 20 of its last 21 attempts. In the last 10 and a half minutes of the game, the team did not hit any field goals.
South Carolina shot 13% in the second half of the game. The team struggled to get the ball in the hoop, despite finding good looks. This was a complete 180 from the Gamecocks’ 45% first-half shooting percentage.
“It’s just deflating, we got some open looks and didn’t shoot some open looks, and when we got some open looks, we didn’t convert,” senior guard Erik Stevenson said.
South Carolina used the three-ball to keep the game close early, starting 5-13. The team did not sustain this success in the second half of the game making only one of its 10 attempts.
“We made some threes and it offset the fact that we were getting outplayed in the paint,” head coach Frank Martin said. “The second half we shot 12% from the field, so we couldn’t offset.”
Turnovers proved costly for the Gamecocks and were one of the reasons the Bulldogs led at halftime, despite shooting a worse percentage. Mississippi State scored 19 points off South Carolina turnovers.
When the offense went stagnant, South Carolina started making more mistakes on the defensive end.
The Bulldogs successfully got Gamecocks' defenders to bite on shot fakes and forced contact on drives to the basket. Mississippi State went 20-27 from the foul line, while South Carolina went 11-19.
It was a physical clash for rebounds. Mississippi State edged the Gamecocks in both the overall rebound battle and on the offensive glass, 49-39 and 15-12 respectively.
Unlike the Gamecocks, the Bulldogs capitalized on its second chance opportunities. The team scored 17 second-chance points. South Carolina had just three.
“Whoever wins the paint, wins the game, and they dominated the paint, we had no answer there,” Martin said.
Redshirt junior forward Tolu Smith recorded a double-double for the Bulldogs with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Iverson Molinar added 19 points.
Stevenson had an all-around performance, scoring 18 points, five rebounds and five assists.
The loss likely puts an end to the Gamecocks' NCAA tournament hopes, the team will now wait for a possible invitation to a postseason tournament like the NIT, which coach Martin says the team will accept.
“Emotions are obviously down right now, you know some guys, it could possibly be James Reese’s last game of his college career,” Stevenson said. “We’re going to try and stay optimistic. and hopefully Sunday night. we’ll see our name on the NIT board somewhere and go from there.”