Sometimes in conference tournaments, teams that struggled in the regular season find some magic, lightening in a bottle you might say, and play at a level well above their regular season performance. That wasn’t the case for USC Thursday night in Nashville in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
The Gamecocks, playing without Keyshawn Bryant, Jermaine Couisnard and Seventh Woods, who were all held out due to physical and mental health issues according to coach Frank Martin, looked basically liked they had through most of the SEC schedule, and they lost to Ole Miss 76-59. The Gamecocks finish their worst of nine seasons under Martin with a 6-15 overall mark.
USC could not overcome another poor shooting performance, and when the Gamecocks did play good offense, they weren’t able to get enough defensive stops to make any extended run to cut into their deficit.
The last five minutes of the first half did in the Gamecocks in this one. A pair of AJ Lawson free throws brought USC to within 25-22 with 5:34 to play. The Rebels then went on a 16-4 run for a 41-26 halftime lead. The Gamecocks missed their last 8 field goal attempts in the half.
Ole Miss scored the first basket of the second half to go up 17. The Gamecocks reeled off the next 8 points to get to within 9, but that was as close as they would get the rest of the game.
The Gamecocks shot 36% from the floor and made just 2 of 11 from three point range. And while they got some nice production from own big men, they were still outscored 34-22 in the paint and beaten on the boards by 9.
Jalyn McCreary led the Gamecocks with a career high 15 points and finishes the season with three straight double-figure scoring games. Wildens Leveque also had a career high with 14 points. Without his three backcourt mates, Lawson was the only guard to generate much offense and he finished with 12 points on 3 of 12 shooting.