The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecocks fall in overtime heartbreaker to No. 2 Alabama

<p>Freshman forward GG Jacksons shoots a contested jump shot near the basket in the second half of the game against Alabama at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 22, 2023. The Crimson Tide beat the Gamecocks 78-76 in overtime.&nbsp;</p>
Freshman forward GG Jacksons shoots a contested jump shot near the basket in the second half of the game against Alabama at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 22, 2023. The Crimson Tide beat the Gamecocks 78-76 in overtime. 

It went to the last second of overtime, but ultimately, the Gamecock men’s basketball team lost 78-76 to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday.

Freshmen forwards G.G Jackson II for South Carolina and Brandon Miller for Alabama put on a show in front of an amped-up crowd and multiple NBA scouts.

Jackson led the Gamecocks’ scoring effort with 19 points. Sophomore guards Jacobi Wright and Meechie Johnson also came up big for South Carolina, scoring 18 points each. All three players made clutch baskets to keep the Gamecocks in the game. 

"Just being in a big game, I was excited for it coming into it,” Wright said. “We had a chance to win it. I just tried to get to my spots and knock it down.”

Miller scored a career-high 41 points, including the game-winning layup with 0.9 seconds left in overtime. This performance came just a day after police in Tuscaloosa said that Miller delivered a handgun to his teammate the night it was used to kill a woman last month.

Despite the allegation, Miller started the game for the Crimson Tide and put on one of his best performances of the season. 

“He’s one of the most mentally tough kids I’ve ever coached,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “Forty-one points, you don’t want to say you expect that, but (I'm) not surprised he came ready to play and played well tonight.”

The game was a back-and-forth battle with each team striking at different times, including 12 ties and 10 lead changes. Alabama led for 19 minutes and 17 seconds, while South Carolina led for 18 minutes and 30 seconds. 

“You deserved to win. You deserved better. You did enough good things to win the basketball game. I do know that,” head coach Lamont Paris said when asked what his message to the team would be. “Let’s get back to it tomorrow.”

The Gamecocks held a 4-point lead at halftime thanks to a 13 points from Jackson in the opening 20 minutes. His fast break dunk before the half boosted the Gamecocks' momentum and increased the already fiery energy in the arena.

South Carolina went into the locker room on a high note after Johnson nailed a contested half-court heave at the buzzer. 

After Miller’s bucket put the Crimson Tide on top in overtime, Johnson almost did it again. The sophomore guard received the inbounds pass and threw up another prayer, that spun around the rim and out as the buzzer sounded.

South Carolina shot the ball better than Alabama in the game, including from behind the 3-point line. The Gamecocks shot 48% to the Crimson Tide's 44% from the floor, and 3-point shooting percentage heavily favored the home team. South Carolina shot 43% from beyond the arc while Alabama shot only 26%. However, the Gamecocks only converted two more attempts. 

Junior forward Josh Gray had 8 points and six rebounds, and freshman guard Zachary Davis had 6 points and five rebounds. Graduate student forward Hayden Brown had 4 points and fouled out at the end of regulation, which Paris said limited the team’s ability to switch things up on its opponent. 

“Hayden’s fouling out was a big hit for us,” Paris said. “It makes us make some decisions, but it certainly makes them make some decisions as to what you’re going to give up late in the game. And it was hard (to) not have Hayden out there.”

Aside from Miller, the rest of Alabama’s offense had a quiet game. The Crimson Tide’s second-leading scorer for the game, sophomore center Charles Bediako, had just 10 points.

This loss drops the Gamecocks' record to 10-18 on the year and 3-12 in conference play. Despite the loss, Paris said the team should feel proud of its effort in the game.

“I’m proud of what they did, how they communicated with each other. Just the stuff that’s being said in the huddles and timeouts is a significant improvement from where it was in December, January," Paris said.

South Carolina’s next game is against another highly-ranked opponent. The team will travel to Knoxville to play No. 11 Tennessee at 6 p.m. on Saturday with hopes of avenging a 43-point loss at home earlier in the season.