South Carolina took the court for the first time in nearly two weeks, Tuesday, playing host to ninth-ranked Auburn. The Gamecocks (9-4, 0-1) were well-rested but overmatched, falling 81-66 at Colonial Life Arena.
Bruce Pearl’s Auburn offense operated with vigor and precision early, shooting 59% in the first half and 53% for the game. But for all of Auburn’s brilliance, South Carolina didn’t help itself, committing twenty turnovers leading to 26 points and hitting just eight of 13 foul shots.
Senior Erik Stevenson kept the Gamecocks afloat, scoring 25 points and knocking down five of his eight 3-point attempts. Jermaine Couisnard, hobbled much of the season with various injuries, pulled light duty (16 minutes) but gave South Carolina a boost in limited action (nine points, no turnovers). Without Couisnard manning the point consistently, the Gamecocks had trouble getting into their offensive sets, turning it over five times in a 3:26 span in the second half with the junior guard on the bench.
South Carolina also had trouble keeping Auburn’s floor general in front of them, caught flat-footed time and again as Wendell Green, Jr. attacked the middle, finding baskets and teammates with equal proficiency. Green finished with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Stevenson and Couisnard offered a glimmer of hope, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to trim the lead to eight with 7:17 left, but the Gamecocks would climb no closer. Auburn slammed the door shut by hitting five of its last six shots from the field and its final six free throws.
Keyshawn Bryant, also beleaguered by injury this season, left the court midway through the first half clutching his shoulder. Frank Martin told the assembled media Bryant had suffered a sprain to his AC Joint and his status is unknown.
The Gamecocks get another crack at their first conference win when they visit Vanderbilt, Saturday, for a noon tipoff.