By Chris Dearing
South Carolina continued its struggles in SEC play Tuesday night at the Colonial Life Arena when the Gamecocks dropped their third straight home conference game with a 70-58 setback against Ole Miss in front of a sparse mid-week crowd. It’s the fourth loss in the last five games for South Carolina.
South Carolina (8-10, 1-4 in the SEC) never led, the third straight SEC home game that has happened. The loss on Tuesday night came on the heels of 40-plus point losses at home to Tennessee and Texas A&M in consecutive Saturday losses.
GG Jackson scored 15 points and Chico Carter added 12 points, but it was another slow start that did the Gamecocks in. Ole Miss led 30-20 at the half thanks to another poor shooting effort from South Carolina They only connected on two field goals in the final 12 minutes of the half and shot 29.8 percent in the opening twenty minutes.
Jackson was 5-of-20 from the field and has struggled since SEC play has started. But Meechie Johnson was just 2-of-10 from the field and the Gamecocks were outrebounded by the Rebels by a 43-31 margin.
Hayden Brown returned from missing Saturday’s game with a deep thigh bruise. The transfer from The Citadel fouled out in 21 minutes and scored nine points. Not a good formula when coach Lamont Paris said Jackson, Johnson and Brown all need to be scoring for the Gamecocks to have success.
“When Hayden, GG and Meechie struggle to score, it ends up being a struggle for us,” Paris said.
Carter said then the offense struggles, the defense has to pick up the slack. “I feel like when you go into those droughts, we’ve got to pick it up on the defensive end,” Carter said. “We try to dial up something (offensively), if that doesn’t work, we try to turn it up on the defensive end to get some stops.”
Getting stops wasn’t working against the Rebels much either. Matthew Murrell scored 23 points and spearheaded a resurgence 3-point attack to lead the Rebels. Ole Miss came into the contest shooting 28.8% from beyond the arc but Murrell hit 5-of-11 from long-range, including back-to-back three’s when South Carolina trimmed a double deficit to eight points in the second half.
Ole Miss (9-9, 1-5) snapped a six-game losing streak with the win. The Rebels hadn’t won since a December 17 victory over Temple. They opened the SEC slate with five straight losses that came by an average by nine points. Only two of those losses came by double digits. South Carolina trimmed the 10-point halftime deficit to three points, 32-29, early in the second half when Ole Miss responded with a 13-2 run to extend the lead back to 45-31 with ten minutes remaining. Murrell started that run with a 3-pointer as well.
The Gamecocks made one smaller run to cut the deficit to nine points, 49-40, when Murrell hit his consecutive three’s to seal the deal. The lead was never less that 10 points the rest of the way.
Paris was asked what his message to his team after the seventh double-digit loss of the season. One positive Paris said he saw was Carter was addressing the team when he walked into the locker room. He was telling the guys that the games keep coming and you have to get ready for the next one quickly.
“You have to move forward. You can’t lick your wounds for 10 days,” Paris said.