South Carolina basketball: Gamecocks drop close one to Alabama

The South Carolina basketball team missed a chance to build its tournament case.

South Carolina hosted No. 11 Alabama last night, looking to earn a signature win and build a case for its now dwindling NCAA Tournament chances. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks came up just short, dropping a close matchup to the Crimson Tide, 81-78.

South Carolina certainly had their chances, jumping out to a 16-5 lead in the game’s first five minutes, but Alabama used the three-ball to get itself back into the competition. From there, the Gamecocks could never get ahead by more than a single basket, while the Crimson Tide’s sharp shooting allowed them to build a late lead.

South Carolina battled back to get it to one point with under two seconds remaining, but an inbound pass on the Gamecocks’ final possession was picked off, securing the Alabama victory.

Now, the Gamecocks fall to just 5-8 (3-6) on the year, having dropped three of their last four contests, and any slim chances of sneaking into the postseason are slipping.

Three-point shooting woes, accompanied by abysmal efforts at the free throw line are costing this team wins. It was never more evident than last night, as the Gamecocks shot just 24% from beyond the arc and 57% from the stripe. The Crimson Tide, on the other hand, connected on 12 threes and 17-of-20 free throws, which was the difference in a three-point game.

For the year, the Gamecocks are the worst free throw shooting team in the conference, and fall in the bottom half of the league in shots from long distance. The result is long scoring droughts, which often allow teams to get back into games, like we saw with Alabama, or cause the Gamecocks to fall behind and play catch up for the rest of the matchup.

There are still opportunities for the Gamecocks, as contests with Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri are still on the horizon, but if South Carolina can’t figure out how to stop the bleeding, the season is all but done in terms of getting to the postseason.