No matter the team, no matter the place, no matter the situation, the University of Arkansas can't seem to get it done on the road this season.
Despite leading deep in the second half for the fourth time in its last four road trips, the Razorbacks failed to close a win out away from home once again on Wednesday night in Columbia, S.C.
Tre' Kelly had a game-high 22 points and South Carolina scored 10 of the game's last 14 points to down Arkansas 66-60 and allow the Gamecocks to get their first league win of the season.
"I am just real disappointed," said Arkansas head coach Stan Heath, who got a technical late in the game. "Our team just does not understand that how there are no easy games. There are no teams in this league where you can just take the floor and win the game.
"…Our defense was lacking in the first half – to give up 55 percent (field goal shooting) was atrocious," Heath added. "The way we turned the ball over at such a high rate in the first half again was unacceptable. I am surprised at our team when we had such an opportunity to put ourselves right back in great standing, didn't come with the intensity that we brought in our previous game."
Because of the SEC Western Division being so jumbled up and no divisional team as yet winning a road game, Arkansas actually had a chance to get into a first-place tie and instead now finds itself tied for the basement.
"It had to be – of all the games that we played – the least amount of intensity that we brought to the floor," Heath continued. "That is just not acceptable."
Darian Townes led Arkansas (13-7, 2-4) with 17 points and 6 rebounds and he gave the Razorbacks – who rallied from a nine-point deficit early in the seconds – a lead when he scored five points in a 7-0 run that put his team ahead 53-51 with 10:53 remaining.
He also tied it 56-56 on an old-fashioned three-point play with 5:28, but that was the last scoring by either team until Kelly's jumper started an 8-0 run with 2:11 remaining in the game.
Arkansas had the ball three times after it was deadlocked 56-56, but failed to score on any of those possessions and also gave up an offensive rebound on a missed free throw.
Two of those were missed lay-ups.
"We missed so many point blank lay-ups and you just don't get those shots back," Heath said. "We didn't not do the job on Brandon Wallace, who I thought was just so aggressive on the offensive boards. He had 10 offensive rebounds and just kept so many of there offensive opportunities alive and gave them extra offensive possessions. He really was a guy that was on a mission tonight."
Dominque Archie added 13, Bryce Sheldon 11 and Evaldas Banilius 10 for South Carolina (11-7, 1-4), who had been blowed out by 30-plus points by Florida and Kentucky in its last two home games.
Sonny Weems added 11 points and 8 rebounds and Patrick Beverley added 10 points as Arkansas, who had 13 of its 16 turnovers in the first half, trailed 37-30 at halftime as the Gamecocks.
"I know they are down a little bit because they know they didn't bring the effort or the energy we needed," Heath said. "We didn't do it from the start and we let them get their confidence, they started shooting the ball very well and they made shot after shot after shot in that first half. We did not have that extra, extra, extra energy you have to have out there on the floor to really guard someone."
Arkansas trailed by 9 early in the second half before ripping off a 9-0 run run to tie it 46-46 , but then found itself back down 51-46 on Banilius' basket with 10:53 remaining.
A Townes shot inside, a Steven Hill dunk, Townes' free throw and then his basket inside capped a 7-0 push that surged Arkansas ahead 53-51 with 7:14 left.
South Carolina answered with the next five points only to see Arkansas get it tied 56-56 before the Razorbacks failed to grab that elusive road win – which they were able to do three times last season.
The only saving grace for the Razorbacks is that they are playing in the SEC's Western Division – where none of the six teams has managed to win a conference road game this season, all six teams have at least three losses and only one does not have a losing record.
Arkansas returns to action on Saturday at Alabama in a 2 p.m. game.
South Carolina 66, Arkansas 60
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