By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Wednesday’s contest between LSU and South Carolina pitted the SEC’s second-best team against its second-worst.
The gap seemed even larger in person than it did on paper.
The Gamecocks led by as much as 26 points and turned 22 LSU turnovers into 34 points of their own, leading wire to wire in a 88-63 win
LSU fell to 9-12 overall and 1-8 in the SEC, suffering its eighth consecutive loss and its 10th in 11 games. Carolina, led by 17 points each from Duane Notice and PJ Dozier, improved to 18-4 overall and 8-1 in the conference.
Brandon Sampson’s 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 from deep led the way in defeat.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Sampson. “I could tell from shoot around today and practice the past two days that this was going to be an aggressive game. You can’t be settling for shots, so you just have to be aggressive. They’re a great defensive team.”
After South Carolina jumped out to an early 18-3 lead, Wayde Sims and Skylar Mays (11 points) scored five straight. But the Gamecocks quickly stretched the lead to 20 with an 11-1 run.
That’s when Sampson caught fire, scoring LSU’s next 11 points. His three-pointer with 2:57 left trimmed a lead that had grown as large as 23 to 16 points, but 16 points off turnovers saw the Gamecocks take a 50-32 lead into halftime.
“We did not make it tough enough for them in the first half, allowing them to shoot 57 percent,” said LSU head coach Johnny Jones. “We were not aggressive enough, not playing at the level or competing at the level that you need to against a team like this to get a victory.”
Some good defense saw the Tigers off to an 8-2 start in the second half, though. South Carolina didn’t score its first points until more than 3:30 into the period, and Antonio Blakeney’s layup saw the Tigers narrow the gap to 12, 52-40, at the under-16 media timeout.
The Gamecocks took control from there, using a 13-0 run spanning 3:45 to build an insurmountable lead.
South Carolina made seven more free throws (21-31) than LSU attempted (9-14), though the Tigers did get 28 bench points, including an 8-point, 11-rebound night from Sims, and six points from former walk-on Brandon Eddlestone.
“We had several guys who I thought played well and dug down deep, said Jones. “We had some other guys that I didn’t think showed up at the pace they needed to give us an opportunity to win the basketball game here tonight.”
LSU is back in action Saturday against Texas A&M for another 8 p.m. tipoff.