The first four overtime game of the college basketball season also happened to be one of the worst games of the college basketball season.
No. 19 South Carolina, playing in their first game as the sole possessors of first place in the SEC, lost at home in quadruple-overtime, 90-86, to Alabama, a team that seems destined to end up in the NIT this season.
The Gamecocks dug themselves a 32-16 hole at the break after missing their final 17 shots of the half and entering halftime a crisp 3-for-30 from the floor. It took until the under-four timeout for South Carolina to make their 10th field goal of the game, and they didn’t crack 20 percent from the field until the final minute of regulation, when the Gamecocks used a late 13-3 rally to force overtime.
Sindarius Thornwell broke Pete Maravich’s record for free throws attempted in an SEC game, going to the line 33 times in a game where he finished with 44 points and 22 boards. But Thornwell, missed eight free throws on the night, including one with 13 seconds left in regulation that would have put South Carolina into the lead.
Avery Johnson Jr. led the way with 23 points for the Crimson Tide and Armond Davis added 19 as Alabama moved within two games of first place in the league standings. The Tide had four chances – at the end of regulation and the end of each of the first three OTs – to win the game at the buzzer, but South Carolina’s defense rose to the occasion each time.
But the story of this game was South Carolina, who had more than enough chances to take control of a critical game in their chase of an SEC title.
Frank Martin’s club had slid into sole possession of first place in the conference thanks to Kentucky’s loss at Florida on Saturday night, a lead that they needed to hold onto with three of their next four games on the road, a stretch that culminates in their return trip to Gainesville; South Carolina beat Florida at home earlier this season.
The knock on South Carolina this season is their issues on the offensive end of the floor. They entered Tuesday night as the nation’s best defensive team, and that’s not going to change after this performance. But they also ranked 145th in offensive efficiency, and that number is surely going to take a nosedive after they shot 26.1 percent from the floor and 5-for-31 from three against the Tide.
Simply put: this team cannot score.
They had more than enough chances to win this game down the stretch, but missed free throws, wide open threes clanging off the rim and an over-reliance on Thornwell and Dozier as the only two guys that can score will be the ultimate demise of this team.