USC came to Knoxville Tuesday night looking to avenge a six point loss to the Vols in January and end a five game skid. The overall effort was better than in recent defeats but the result was a sixth straight setback 70-67 that guarantees a .500 or less SEC regular season for the Gamecocks.
This was a game that saw the Gamecocks rally twice from large deficits as they never led over the final 31 minutes. They were down 10 points in the first half but trailed by just four at halftime. In the second half, the Gamecocks trailed by 14 but managed to get a shot to tie at the end.
A Frank Booker layup brought USC to within 68-67 with :36 left. The Vols called timeout and Rick Barnes ran a play to get the ball inside to Grant Williams. Chris Silva and Booker were to double team Williams but he spun his way free near the basket and he delivered with :11 to play for his 22nd point of the game.
Down three, Frank Martin called timeout and the Gamecocks ran a play with Justin Minaya taking a handoff from Wesley Meyers, but he was a little farther out on the perimeter than Martin wanted. Minaya took a couple of dribbles to his left toward the top of the key and launched a long three over two defenders that fell short of the rim at the buzzer.
Booker led the Gamecocks with 19 points. Silva and Hassani Gravett had 12 points each.
Despite the loss, Martin found some solace in his players’ fight to get back in the game as well as the play off the bench of some seldom used bigs. Because of foul difficulties, Jason Cudd and Khadim Gueye played 14 and 13 minutes respectively. Even Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia got five minutes of court time with the game in the balance.
But defensive lapses and extended stretches of no offensive production cost the Gamecocks again as their losing streak is now their longest since 2014. USC is now 13-3 overall and 4-9 in the SEC and will host 10th ranked Auburn Saturday afternoon.
Frank Martin post game press conference
Frank Booker on what the effort in the loss says about the team