Watch Out Below! Alabama Falling!

There aren't many teams below the Alabama Crimson Tide in Southeastern Conference men's basketball. Good thing, because Bama is in free fall. Alabama found a way to be the first SEC team this year to lose to South Carolina as the Tide fell for the fourth straight game Wednesday night in Columbia. Tide Coach Anthony Grant blamed the outcome on his team being "selfish."

Alabama played the fouls-to-give game in the final seconds, then gave up an uncontested lay-up to lose by 56-54 to South Carolina.

The Tide's fourth consecutive loss, three of them on the road, was in some ways the most disheartening as Bama had unforced turnovers and gave up 19 offensive rebounds to the Gamecocks.

With the loss, Alabama fell to 13-7 overall and 2-4 in SEC play. South Carolina won its first league contest to go 1-4 and the Gamecocks are 9-10 overall.

After playing four of its first six SEC games on the road this season and having no Saturday games, the Crimson Tide will play its next two games on back-to-back Saturdays. Alabama will host Arkansas at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and after an open midweek will play Ole Miss in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Alabama had the basketball in a tie game with under 30 seconds to play when Bama turned it over. It was one of numerous unforced turnovers by the Tide (among the 15 by Alabama) and gave South Carolina a chance to win the game with a final shot.

Alabama had only four fouls at the time and spent two of them. The first came with 6.4 seconds. But rather than really cut into South Carolina's time, the next foul came a mere second later.

The Gamecocks didn't need much of an innovative inbounds play. The ball was thrown in to sophomore guard Bruce Ellington at the top of the circle. He turned and dribbled down the middle of the lane, unobstructed, and got the lay-up with just over a second to play.

A last ditch fadeaway from JaMychal Green didn't have much of a chance.

Alabama actually helped its outstanding defensive mark this year. The Tide went into the game ranked 12th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up only 57.5 points per game, and bettered that by allowing only 56. But the other side of the coin is that someone has to provide some offense for Bama.

Alabama got 12 points from Levi Randolph, 11 from Tony Mitchell (who also had eight rebounds), and Nick Jacobs with 10 points. Green had only six points and four rebounds as he was in foul trouble early in both halves and also had an ankle injury that sidelined him for awhile. Andrew Steele had six points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Tide Coach Anthony Grant was irritated on his post-game radio show, calling his team "flat out selfish." ‘

Grant said, "Give South Carolina credit. They played harder and wanted it more.

"The ‘Alabama' on the front of the jersey has to mean more."

South Carolina was led by Malik Cooke with 18 points and by Ellington and Damontre Harris with 12 each.

South Carolina had the lead most of the second half. After Green missed a layup and the Tide defense loafed back, a South Carolina layup made it 46-42. But The Tide fought back to tie the game at 46-46, at 48-48, 50-50, 52-52, and 54-54.

When the Gamecocks missed a shot with about 50 seconds to play, Alabama seemed likely to have at least one shot at the lead. But Bama, which had not been efficient on half-court possessions most of the night, did not get a shot off. A pass into Green was knocked away, setting up the last opportunity of the game for South Carolina.

It was hard to believe that Alabama had a 29-27 halftime lead. Bama had surrendered 10 offensive rebounds to South Carolina. The Tide had been careless with the basketball. And Bama had been whistled for right fouls, the Gamecocks only three. But a pair of Levi Randolph three-pointers and two clutch free throws by Andrew Steele gave Bama the slim advantage at intermission.

Although Alabama opened the game with a 5-0 lead, the Gamecocks got eight consecutive points from senior Malik Cooke and had a 9-5 lead before the Tide could get back on the scoreboard. South Carolina had the lead for most of the next 10 minutes of the first half, although the Tide was able to tie the score a few times.

Back-to-back three-point shots by Bruce Ellington gave the Gamecocks a four-point lead, at 23-19, in the last six minutes of the half, but Bama was able to re-take the lead at 24-23 on a three-pointer by Levi Randolph with 4:18 to play.

TIDE NOTES: Alabama started a big line-up against South Carolina – JaMychal Green, Nick Jacobs, Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, and Trevor Lacey.

The loss broke a three-game Alabama winning streak against South Carolina.

The Tide now has a 22-13 all-time advantage in the series with the Gamecocks.

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