South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks' season ends at hands of Jermaine Couisnard, Oregon Ducks in NCAA Tournament

South Carolina basketball struggled, and the Gamecocks' NCAA Tournament run ended with just 1 game as Jermaine Couisnard and the Oregon Ducks eliminated USC.

Former South Carolina basketball guard Jermaine Couisnard and his Oregon Ducks ended the Gamecocks' season on Thursday.
Former South Carolina basketball guard Jermaine Couisnard and his Oregon Ducks ended the Gamecocks' season on Thursday. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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After the Final Four run at the end of the 2016-2017 season, South Carolina basketball fans thought their favorite program had taken the next step to becoming one of the best in the country. As it turned out, that's not what happened.

However, the Gamecocks, in just year 2 of the Lamont Paris era, are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since that magical run in 2017.

As the 6-seed, Carolina had the 11-seed Oregon Ducks standing in the way of a March Madness run and a new program record for single-season wins. Former Gamecock Jermaine Couisnard was now a Duck, as well, adding to the intrigue of the matchup.

In front of a packed house in Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena, the opening tip went the way of Collin Murray-Boyles and the Gamecocks, but Oregon freshman Kwame Evans stuffed BJ Mack before Jackson Shelstad canned a 3-pointer to open the scoring.

The Carolina offense was abysmal early as they had two turnovers and a shot blocked on their first three possessions. The defense forced Couisnard into two giveaways, as well, so when BJ Mack hit a midrange jumper and a 3-pointer on the net two trips down the floor, the score stood tied 5-5.

Big N'Faly Dante challenged Mack on the other end and picked up a bucket through a foul, but a Dante goaltend on Collin Murray-Boyles tied the score before a rare transition bucket for the Gamecocks put USC ahead.

Zach Davis continued locking up Jermaine Couisnard. After forcing two giveaways, he swiped a pass from right in front of his fingertips for a free score off of an inbound play. Couisnard got his first bucket after Davis went to the bench, and when the Ducks scored again, the score was tied 13-13 with 11 minutes left in the half.

Zach Davis was called for his 2nd foul about 75 feet from the basket, but Coach Paris left him in the game. The Gamecocks went up 20-14 with a pair of perimeter jumpers from Jacobi Wright and Meechie Johnson. Couisnard then scored 5 straight points to cut the lead to 1 before Johnson was whistled for his 2nd foul, too.

An N'Faly Dante bucket pushed Oregon's run to 7-0 and gave the Ducks the lead, but Myles Stute knocked down two free throws to regain the lead for Lamont Paris' team. The lead disappeared as Oregon went on an 11-0 run (18-2 run total) as the Gamecock offense was as bad as it's been all season (wild shots from BJ Mack and almost no ball movement from the offense) and the defense gave up some open looks.

The Gamecocks were able to cut the deficit to 32-26 after some Zach Davis foul shots, but an egregiously missed goal tend call kept Davis off the board, and the loose ball resulted in a Jackson Shelstad jumper just before the half. Carolins was set to go into the locker room down 8 but Ta'Lon Cooper hit a 65-foot heave before the buzzer to end the Gamecocks' 8-minute field goal drought and cut the Oregon lead to 34-29.

The 2nd half began with a 2nd chance bucket from Couisnard, and BJ Mack responded with another wild shot attempt in traffic that had no chance to go in the basket. Oregon got a transition opportunity as a result, and N'Faly Dante scored. Ta'Lon Cooper scored 5 straight to make things closer, but Zach Davis' 3rd foul gave Dante 2 more points from the line.

With the score 42-34 in favor of the Ducks, Jackson Shelstad got a pick-6, and then Collin Murray-Boyles passed up a short jumper, resulting in a turnover from Davis. An easy lob to Dante put the Ducks up by 12 before Meechie Johnson hit a deep 3-pointer. Jermaine Couisnard scored 5 points in less than a minute, though, and all of a sudden, Oregon was up 51-37.

After a timeout, Couisnard hit another 3-pointer, and even after a Meechie Johnson deep ball, Lamont Paris' team trailed by 14. Couisnard scored again (giving him 10 points in less than 3 minutes), and this one felt out of reach.

The Gamecock offense had been better in the 2nd half, but Oregon had already scored 25 points at the 11:00 mark of the 2nd half.

Carolina put together back-to-back stops, and BJ Mack hit a 3-pointer to reduce their deficit to 11 points. Couisnard, though, answered with a 3-pointer to quiet the momentum. 3 fouls in less than 2 minutes from Mack sent him to the bench, and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk saw his first action since February.

Meechie Johnson wouldn't go away, though. The redshirt junior scored his 11th and 12th points since halftime on a free throw line pull-up. Unfortunately, the duo of Dante and Couisnard had scored 14 and 15, respectively, since halftime, rendering Johnson's efforts moot.

When Cooper hit another 3-pointer, the Gamecocks had an extra jolt of life in their game, but that life left almost as soon as it came as Couisnard hit his 5th 3-ball. With 2 free throws, Couisnard set the Oregon NCAA Tournament scoring record.

Carolina kept the Oregon lead between 10 and 15 points the rest of the way, but Dante and Couisnard were too dominant.

In the end, the Gamecocks' season came to a close on Thursday as Oregon finished things off with a 14-point win.

87. 515. South Carolina Basketball vs. Oregon Ducks. 73. 533. Final