For most of this season, the Colonial Life Arena has been full of life, infusing energy into a South Carolina team that at times was playing above its head.
By Saturday evening, however, it seemed the air had gone out of the arena ... and the Gamecocks' season.
Mississippi State, playing for its NCAA tournament life, cruised to a 76-63 victory against South Carolina, the fifth consecutive loss for a USC team whose season may be two weeks from ending.
"Right now you're just playing for pride," USC guard Devan Downey said. "Everything's just about pride."
The Gamecocks (14-14, 5-9 in the SEC) slipped into a tie with Georgia for last place in the East. If the season ended today, the Gamecocks would be the sixth seed by virtue of a worse division record.
It also marked the first time in coach Darrin Horn's two years the team has been .500.
Five games ago, USC was 14-9 and 5-4 in the SEC, coming off a home victory against Florida and was in the NCAA picture. Now, they may be lucky to make the NIT.
"I think you tell our seniors they have a decision on how they want to finish here at home on Wednesday night," Horn said. "How they want to go out and finding a way to get a win in their last game at home in their last game here. For our guys that are coming back, continuing to fight and build and understanding that everything we do is continuing to move forward and for the future."
Downey finished with 12 points, his lowest output in SEC play and second-lowest of the season.
"They tried to sink everybody into the lane and force me to kick (it out)," Downey said. "I just missed shots tonight."
Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said a big focus was on stopping Downey.
"He's the head of the snake. You've gotta do the job on him," Stansbury said. "He never got going. I never thought he got in the big flow."
Mississippi State's barrage of 3-pointers and solid inside play made it a rout. The Bulldogs were 10-for-21 on 3s, including five by Barry Stewart.
Horn credited the Bulldogs, saying his players "for the most did a good job of challenging them."
"It seemed like every time they needed a shot to go down, they did that," Horn said.
Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado and Kodi Augustus largely closed down the post. USC was limited to a season-low five offensive rebounds, and several of those were on long bounces.
South Carolina's pressure was not a factor, so it had to make up for it from outside, and could not do so.
The first half did not look like a normal Gamecock offense. USC scored 22 of its 28 points in the paint, and was 1-for-8 on 3s.
South Carolina trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, but an 8-0 run, coming after its first 3 of the game, got it in the game. It trailed by seven at the break.
USC climbed within two early in the second half, with Downey finishing a mini-run with a floater in the lane. But then the Gamecocks went six possessions without a basket, and the deficit swelled to 14 on a 3 by Johnson.
The Gamecocks had one final run in them and trimmed the deficit to nine, but Augustus's 3 to beat the shot clock went in - that was the kind of night it was for the Gamecocks.
"You couldn't ask for a better attempt than that if you're us, if you're picking who's shooting the basketball, and that's no offense to him, but they've got some great shooters. And he just knocks it down," Horn said. "It just seemed like that happened over and over in the second half."