On some nights seemingly nothing can go right for a team, making it nearly impossible to come away with the win. That was the case for No. 19 South Carolina Wednesday night, as they struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor and suffered their first loss of the season, 73-50 at Alabama.
Frank Martin’s team, which has thrived due to its offensive balance, tough defense and team chemistry, could not hit a shot against the Crimson Tide. After making just 30.8 percent of their shots in the first half the Gamecocks were even worse to start the second, missing their first 14 shots of the half (overall streak of 17 straight missed shots) as Alabama went on a 13-0 run and led by 26 with just over 14 minutes remaining.
That hole was far too deep for South Carolina to climb out of, as the Crimson Tide did a good job of keeping the visitors out of the paint offensively. That forced a number of challenged jump shots, be it from mid-range or from three, and with those shots not falling things snowballed on South Carolina.
One player who had no problem hitting shots: Alabama’s Riley Norris. Entering the game averaging six points per contest, Norris finished with a career-high 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting (8-for-11 3PT) to go along with seven rebounds. Norris scored 15 of Alabama’s first 19 points, all on three-pointers, as the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 19-4 lead.
That opening run put South Carolina in a position where they played faster than they were comfortable doing on the offensive end, settling for shots instead of working for quality looks. Over the last two games the Gamecocks have shot 8-for-42 from three, which is a concern for a team that’s one of the best in the country at knocking down three-pointers (38.5 percent entering Wednesday). Add in 18 turnovers Alabama converted into 23 points, and those factors resulted in South Carolina taking its first loss by a surprisingly large margin.
Alabama, which earned its first SEC win under head coach Avery Johnson, now has three wins over ranked teams this season, and doing so in front of a raucous crowd also celebrating another football national title is a nice boost for a rebuilding program. As for South Carolina the lessons are simple: take better care of the ball, and find higher quality shots.