NASHVILLE, Tenn. - During Wednesday's shootaround, Lakeem Jackson hit a free throw and reacted with a smile and excited yell, appropriate considering his struggles this year.
The South Carolina freshman is 15-for-55 from the line. The school doesn't keep records on worst free throw percentage, but that likely would be up there.
"I've never been on (this bad a streak). I don't know how this happened," Jackson said. "At the beginning of the season, I was hitting a couple here and there, and now I just can't hit anything. But it's not really something I'm worried about. I'm just trying to get wins."
Jackson has had a solid freshman season otherwise, starting every game and averaging 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He also has 46 steals and 19 blocks, and his scoring has improved late in the season.
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"People are so critical of his game but look at the box score every night, he's produced," Gamecocks senior Devan Downey said. "He's gonna be fine, he's gonna have a great career here."
Not as loose
The Gamecocks conducted a bit more serious of a shootaround session than last year. They practiced some sets during their allotted hour at the Bridgestone Arena, whereas last year they were so loose they invited media members to shoot 3s.
Of course the circumstances were a bit different on the Wednesday of last year's tournament: The Gamecocks didn't play until Friday, and had another full day to practice elsewhere.
"I'm a big believer at tournament time you have to go out and play," coach Darrin Horn said. "You can't be so loose that you're not focused in on the things that make you good and that you have to do well."
Up and down
Center Sam Muldrow is coming off a week that mirrored his team: He struggled (seven points, four rebounds) in the home loss to Alabama, then had a huge game (20 points, nine rebounds) in an upset of No. 13 Vanderbilt.
That's kind of how it has been for Muldrow all season. He had a 23-point, eight-rebound performance (at Arkansas) sandwiched in between four- and six-point games.
"I had a little frustration going on with the losing streak," Muldrow said. "But hey, get back going out there playing with pride, sticking together as a team."
The 6-foot-9 Muldrow has had to bang with the SEC's bigger bodies throughout league play, without the burly Mike Holmes beside him. Muldrow listed himself at 215 pounds, after entering college at 190.
"I ate a little bit," he said, smiling.
Not surprisingly, Alabama coach Anthony Grant was not using last week's win at South Carolina as a harbinger for today.
"I thought it showed great character for our guys, with everything, the distractions and adversity we had going into that game. With it being Senior Night, going on the road," Grant said. "It was a great, win, it was one win. Obviously, that game last week will have nothing to do with the game that we play (today)."
Throw it down
Freshman guard Stephen Spinella said he got some teasing from teammates about his game-ending dunk at Vanderbilt. It was the first of his college career, and was the finishing touch on a 77-73 upset of the Commodores.
"We were only up by two points, so obviously I was gonna go for it," said the 6-foot-4 Spinella. "If it was a different situation in the game, and we were up by four or five, I don't know that I would've attempted it."