Arkansas picked a bad time to play its worst game of the season.
With their NCAA Tournament hopes hanging by a thread halfway through the Southeastern Conference schedule, the Razorbacks pulled out the scissors with a listless performance during a 64-52 loss against South Carolina before 10,010 in the Colonial Center on Wednesday.
Arkansas came into the game needing to win six of its final nine games to post an NCAA-minimum record of 8-8 in the SEC.
Instead of building on their season-best effort, Saturday's 68-67 loss against No. 6 Kentucky, the Razorbacks' halfcourt offense looked clueless against South Carolina's 2-3 zone. Arkansas shot a season-worst 19 of 61 (31.1 percent) from the field and was outrebounded 38-36 by the hungrier Gamecocks.
Arkansas' SEC-worst road losing streak reached 13 games and third-year coach Stan Heath's road record in SEC play sank to 1-19.
The Hogs (14-7, 2-6) went more than five minutes without a field goal in the second half and scored 25 points in the first 28 minutes while South Carolina (12-7, 4-4) turned a 29-21 halftime lead into a 42-25 spread.
Arkansas never cut the lead below 11 points down the stretch and prolonged the basketball game equivalent of a sleeping pill with a hack-a-Gamecock strategy (six fouls) in the final 2:22.
When the Hogs weren't firing up airballs from 3-point range (6 of 24, 25 percent), South Carolina was swatting everything in sight around the rim and finished with seven rejections.
"We played very poorly today," Heath said. "It was an important game for them and South Carolina did everything they needed to do."
Gamecocks coach Dave Odom called Arkansas "the best young team in this league" on Tuesday and was surprised his team dominated the pace of the game so completely.
"They didn't play very well tonight, and who knows why?" Odom said. "Hopefully we had something to do with it."
Both teams got off to a slow start, but South Carolina found its intensity level with a 9-0 run to take a 15-9 lead and Arkansas never responded.
"Nope," said a dejected Ronnie Brewer, who led the Hogs with 20 points. "You can tell watching us. We were flat. We didn't execute a lot. We didn't rebound well and it showed on the scoreboard."
Brewer, who also had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, a block and 2 turnovers in 37 minutes, said the Razorbacks weren't ready to claim what all agreed was a must-win game.
"I don't think a lot of people came to play," Brewer said. "I guess being on the road ... But that shouldn't affect you. You should let the other team and their fans make you play harder, better and more aggressive. In the circumstances where we are as a team, we're down to the point we have to win games to get in to the (NCAA) Tournament.
"I don't think people understand that right now."
With its own postseason destination teetering on the brink, South Carolina was led by senior Carlos Powell's 14 on 6 of 10 shooting, Tarence Kinsey's double-double of 11 points and 10 points, and Tre' Kelley's 10 on 10 of 12 free throws.
Other than Brewer's 20, only Olu Famutimi scored in double figures for Arkansas with 14 on 5 of 11 shooting, most coming in garbage time after Arkansas fell behind by as many as 15.
Arkansas was mired in a slowed-down game, never got its transition game going and created an intermittent 10 turnovers from its defense.
"Outside of (Brewer), it just seems like until Famutimi got going, we just didn't have enough weapons out there to give us an offensive punch," Heath said. "They mixed it up with zones and traps. We didn't turn it over much (10 for the game). It was one of those games where we didn't get easy baskets in transition, nor against some of the pressure they put on us."
Freshman center Darian Townes was swarmed by South Carolina's zone and struggled to a 3 of 10 shooting night for 6 points.
No other Razorback had more than five.
"The energy level for this game was terrible," Townes said. "It's hard to play like that. You really can't say much."
Junior captain Jonathon Modica (1 of 7 from the field, 1 of 4 from the foul line, 4 points) said the Razorbacks didn't have an excuse for another no-show on the road and can't afford another at Ole Miss this Saturday.
"I really can't explain it," Modica said. "It bothers me a whole lot. It's real frustrating, and it hurts a lot right now. It's just that we know Saturday is a must-win situation for us and we have to make it happen. There's still hope and there's still time to turn this around."
Arkansas switched its defenses often in the first half, going from man to its 3-2 zone after Powell scored two quick baskets at the rim, including a baseline dunk, for a 4-3 lead.
The Razorbacks held South Carolina to four minutes without a field goal against the zone but struggled to execute against the Gamecocks' 2-3 zone and the game was at a snoozing pace of 6-5, Gamecocks, more than six minutes in.
The Hogs got back within two twice, the last time at 23-21 with two minutes to play in the first half on a pull-up jumper by Dontell Jefferson.
Townes, Jefferson and Modica turned it over on the Razorbacks' next three possessions and South Carolina capitalized with baskets by Powell, Josh Gonner and Kinsey to take a 29-21 lead into intermission.
Heath said he saw signs of a letdown coming after his team's near-miss against Kentucky but couldn't find the motivational buttons to push with his team that played more depressed than desperate.
"After a while it just starts hurting, these losses that we should have won," Townes said. "We have to keep playing basketball and get a win when we play Mississippi."
Another Road Block
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