Columbia, S.C.--South Carolina pulled away from Auburn late in the first half with strong play on the boards and excellent outside shooting on the way to a 98-69 SEC basketball victory on Tuesday night.
It was the most lopsided loss of the season for the Tigers, topping a 96-71 loss to Purdue in November at the Cancun Challenge in Mexico.
Auburn fell to 13-7 overall and 3-5 in the SEC. South Carolina improved to 16-4 overall and 6-1 in the SEC.
Shooting was the major issue for the Tigers, who made just 35.6 percent of their shots from the field. Auburn really struggled behind the three-point line, hitting just 3-21. The foul shooting was an issue, too, as the Tigers made 24-39.
The Gamecocks were on target with 49.2 percent of their shots. The big number was a 57.7 percent mark from three-point range as the home team nailed 15-26 treys. The Gamecocks were 23-33 at the foul line.
One of the few bright spots for the Tigers was a season-high 18 points off the bench from Anfernee McLemore. The freshman center hit 6-9 field goals, 6-7 free throws and pulled in seven rebounds.
Freshman center Austin Wiley posted his first collegiate double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman Mustapha Heron also scored 10 points while another freshman, Jared Harper, added 12 points.
Coach Bruce Pearl did not sugarcoat what he saw. “It was a complete ass-kicking,” he said. “That is all it was--it just was.
“That is the second best team on their home floor and we weren’t ready,” Pearl said. “We weren’t very well prepared. We got out-coached and out-played.”
Pearl said he was impressed with how the Gamecocks performed defensively. “They took us out of everything we wanted to do,” he said. “We didn’t have answers offensively.” He said the same was true when the Gamecocks had the ball. “They just did what they wanted to do. They got a lot of open shots, uncontested shots.”
By halftime the Tigers were down by 21 points with the Gamecocks outscoring the visitors 25-8 in the final nine minutes of the period. South Carolina allowed Auburn to make just one of its last 11 field goals before intermission. South Carolina went into the locker room with a 48-27 lead after hitting 10-16 three-pointers while out-rebounding the Tigers 24-16.
The Tigers contributed to their first half deficit with poor shooting. Auburn hit just 8-29 field goals (27.6 percent), 2-10 threes and 9-16 free throws.
Horace Spencer scores for the Tigers, who never led on Tuesday at Colonial Life Arena.
Auburn got off to a better start in the second half, particularly on the boards, but saw the Gamecocks make another spurt in the second half of the period to win with ease even though the Tigers cut the rebound margin to 38-37 for the game.
Duane Notice led the Gamecocks with 27 points, matching his career-high output. The senior guard hit 6-9 threes.
Another senior guard, Sindarius Thornwell, added 22 points for the Gamecocks as he hit 5-7 treys.
Pearl noted the Gamecocks really schooled the Tigers on Tuesday night. “We are nowhere near as good as they are defensively,” the coach said.
Worth Noting, Part 1: South Carolina’s defense forced 19 Auburn turnovers. The Gamecocks turned the ball over 15 times.
Worth Noting,?Part 2: Auburn’s bench out-scored South Carolina 33-23.
Worth Noting Part 3: The Tigers outscored the Gamecocks 35-22 for points in the paint.
Stat of the Game, Part A: The Gamecocks outscored the Tigers 45-9 on three-point shots, overshadowing most other statistics in the contest.
Stat of the Game, Part B: Auburn’s point guards Jared Harper and Ronnie Johnson did not have an assist.
Up Next: The Tigers head to Texas for a Saturday game at TCU as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. CST with TV coverage on ESPNU.