-- Frank Martin has credited his team’s focus all year. Throughout a 15-0 start, South Carolina was the kind of team that wouldn’t head to the party over practice because it was enjoying the ride that was earning the party around them.
The No. 19 Gamecocks were blown out 73-50 by Alabama for their first loss of the season on Wednesday. The Crimson Tide (10-5, 1-2 SEC) were the SEC’s lowest-scoring, 12th-worst shooting and No. 8 3-point shooting team before the game.
Of course, they didn’t play USC’s Wednesday defense in any of those other games.
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“They did to us what we usually do to people, which is not let people run offense,” Frank Martin said. “Bad day at the office. I kind of saw it coming. The last two days haven’t been two of our better days.”
The Gamecocks (15-1, 2-1) acted like they’d never seen a pick-and-roll. As they did against Auburn and Vanderbilt, they collapsed on drivers and seemed confused when a pass was kicked out for a wide-open 3-point shot. Alabama’s Riley Norris averaged 6.2 points a game in 14 games. He had 15 in the first nine minutes Thursday, all on 3-pointers, and ended with 27.
USC tried to shoot its way back into it but Alabama’s defense was ready. The Tide spread themselves up top to deny any drivers and effectively cut off any passing lanes to the interior; as the Gamecocks tried to shoot over it, nine of their 10 first-half 3-point attempts went anywhere but through the net.
“We played awful,” Michael Carrera said. “Offensively and defensively, we played awful. I really don’t know what to say.”
The Gamecocks didn’t score a second-half point until 11:51 remained. They missed their first 12 shots of the half, including five from 3. Alabama, meanwhile, had doubled USC on the scoreboard, 48-24.
By the time USC figured something out, the game was over. Nothing left to do but pack up and wonder how to get past it.
“Tomorrow, we get back to work,” Sindarius Thornwell said. “We needed this. We all did. Just be ready for tomorrow.”
The Gamecocks got exactly what they deserved, and it cost them their first 3-0 league start since 1996-97 and a chance to tie the two longest winning streaks in program history (17 games each). More than that, the confidence and looseness that had triggered 15 wins was badly shaken – USC has spoken all year about how it hasn’t gotten too high after any one game.
But it’s never had to come off a loss, especially a thrashing to what was a thin, bad-shooting team.
Alabama’s offense was mostly 3-pointers or alley-oop lobs for dunks. The Gamecocks knew they couldn’t let Retin Obasohan get hot and they didn’t let him – but he didn’t have to when his teammates were burning the nets. Obasohan had four while second-leading scorer Arthur Edwards had three.
Norris and Justin Coleman (8.3 average, 14 points) nearly out-scored USC by themselves.
NOTE: Marcus Stroman was taken out of the game with 12 minutes to play after sustaining a cut to his forehead. He received three stitches.
Michael Kessens stripped Carrera and raced downcourt, flipping to Norris on the wing. His 3-pointer bottomed and it was only 5-0, but Norris looked like he’d just discovered the wheel. USC couldn’t douse him if it had a fire extinguisher.
Star of the game: Norris. He tied his career-high in points in the first half.
Play of the game: Alabama laid off the 3s enough for Coleman to take a quick inbound pass and toss it up for Donta Hall to ram it through. The rim was still shaking a minute later.
Stat of the game: The Crimson Tide had 13 3-pointers. The Gamecocks had 19 field goals.
FROM THE BASELINE
No guts, no glory: The Gamecocks were intimidated from the start by Alabama’s defense, refusing to drive the ball and settling for missed 3-pointers. By the time they finally started going inside, they weren’t putting up shots with any confidence.
Memphis, Vanderbilt and Auburn had the same height, length and bulk of Alabama, and a lot more of it. USC still went after them.
Panic button?: Still a lot of basketball to be played. But if USC didn’t show up when it was 15-0 and in the Top 20, what’s it going to take?
Who: South Carolina vs. Missouri
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
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SOUTH CAROLINA (15-1)
Thornwell 1-6 0-0 2, Chatkevicius 3-7 0-0 6, Dozier 0-5 0-0 0, Carrera 5-10 2-2 14, Kacinas 2-8 2-4 6, Stroman 0-2 0-0 0, Doby 2-2 0-0 4, Gregory 3-3 1-3 8, Notice 2-8 3-3 7, McKie 0-0 0-0 0, Ragin 0-0 0-0 0, Cobb 1-2 0-0 2, Silva 0-0 1-5 1. Totals 19-53 9-17 50.
Norris 9-16 1-2 27, Kessens 3-7 0-0 6, Edwards 1-5 0-0 3, Taylor 2-3 1-4 5, Obasohan 1-5 2-4 4, Schaffer 1-1 0-2 3, Coleman 4-8 5-5 14, Hale 2-4 2-2 8, Austin 0-1 0-0 0, Clark 0-0 0-0 0, Hall 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 24-51 12-21 73.
Halftime_Alabama 35-22. 3-Point Goals_South Carolina 3-18 (Carrera 2-5, Gregory 1-1, Dozier 0-1, Chatkevicius 0-2, Kacinas 0-2, Thornwell 0-3, Notice 0-4), Alabama 13-28 (Norris 8-11, Hale 2-4, Schaffer 1-1, Edwards 1-4, Coleman 1-5, Austin 0-1, Obasohan 0-2). Fouled Out_Dozier, Hall. Rebounds_South Carolina 33 (Carrera 10), Alabama 38 (Norris 7). Assists_South Carolina 9 (McKie, Notice 3), Alabama 16 (Coleman 6). Total Fouls_South Carolina 19, Alabama 20. Attendance_12,443.