Despite a last-second effort from junior forward Josh Gray, the Gamecocks to failed to secure a victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks in a narrow 65-63 defeat on Saturday afternoon.
South Carolina has now lost seven straight games and its ninth total game in SEC play.
Both Gray and sophomore guard Meechie Johnson were the leading scorers for the Gamecocks, scoring 20 points each. Gray dominated in the paint with 14 rebounds and one of South Carolina's three blocks as a team. Johnson was 5-8 from three and helped the Gamecocks' offense excel in the second half. Arkansas’ leading scorer was senior forward Jalen Graham with 16 points, while freshman forward Jordan Walsh had 10 rebounds.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair between the Gamecocks and the Razorbacks, as the lead changed hands four times in the first nine minutes of the game. Arkansas then went on a 14-2 run and began to separate from the Gamecocks, only for South Carolina to respond with a 6-0 scoring stretch and end the half down 9 points.
Both teams again went back and forth to start the second half, with Arkansas leading by 9 points with around eight minutes left in the game. The Gamecocks then went on a 10-0 run over the next five minutes to give South Carolina its first lead of the second half.
The lead once again swapped between teams, but a three-point play by freshman guard Anthony Black gave Arkansas a 65-63 advantage. South Carolina had the chance to win the game with 2.2 seconds remaining when the ball was inbounded across the court to Gray, but his shot from three fell just short and to the right of the rim.
Offensive efficiency has been a struggle for the Gamecocks throughout its current losing streak, averaging only 61.3 points per game since its win over Kentucky. However, South Carolina showed improvement in field goal percentage and three-point percentage after halftime. Johnson, who scored five of the Gamecocks’ seven three-pointers, was a major contributor in both metrics.
“When you hit one, you start to feel good (and) hit another one, then you just get into your groove of ‘now is my time,'” Johnson said when asked how his mindset changed after halftime. “You’ve just got to stay poised and just wait for those opportunities to come.”
The team's defensive effort led to opportunities on the other end of the court, as the Gamecocks scored 14 points off of 11 Razorback turnovers and had six steals total on the night. Head coach Lamont Paris said this showed that the Gamecocks do not lack in basketball ability.
“One thing for us (to improve upon) is consistency, and I mean consistency in a lot of different ways ... consistency emotionally, consistency in terms of performance of some basic things," Paris said. "It’s less basketball things with this group.”
The Gamecocks will head out west to face the Missouri Tigers on Tuesday night as it hopes to break its losing streak. South Carolina will remain on the road for a matchup at Ole Miss on Saturday before returning home on Valentine’s Day to face Vanderbilt.