South Carolina Defense Squeezes Tigers

South Carolina escaped Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum with an overtime victory.

Auburn, Ala.--South Carolina's Carlos Powell stole Auburn's hopes of an overtime victory Wednesday night as he grabbed the ball from Nathan Watson on an Auburn inbounds pass and took it to the hole for a layup that would give the Gamecocks a 53-51 victory at Beard Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

He made the big play with the game tied at 51 and 14 seconds remaining in overtime.

South Carolina coach Dave Odom said that he did not want to give the Tigers the last shot in overtime. "We say if they throw it in the backcourt we are going with a certain trap, which kind of features Carlos as the lead defender in the trap," Odom explained. "But the thinking from my standpoint, and the other coaches, was I was not willing to let 22 seconds run down and have them throw the ball in the post only to have a potential whistle blown and put them on the free throw line, something we cannot defend."

Nathan Watson takes a jump shot vs. the Gamecocks.

Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said that he felt like the last play did not really determine the outcome of the game. "They had us stymied," Ellis explained. "I thought the physical play went to South Carolina--I think that is why they won the game. I think the end of the game was an exclamation. You can't look at the last play. I thought there were a lot of plays that we just didn't make plays."

South Carolina, which moves to 15-2 overall and 2-1 in the SEC, played like a team that was leading the SEC in five defensive categories. The Gamecocks held Auburn, 10-4 overall and 1-2 in SEC play, to a paltry 25.4 percent field goal shooting and 20 percent from the three-point line.

Tiger's senior Kyle Davis, who had five points, nine rebounds and six blocks in the losing effort, said that the Gamecocks' defense was very tough to deal with. "As soon as you pass that ball you have got two guys coming toward you ready to trap and sometimes it is hard to find people out of a trap, and they always trap with big guys. And they came out there and they played hard and it was just a tough game and a tough loss."

Marco Killingsworth also noted that the Gamecocks made it very difficult for his teammates to get him the ball. "Yeah, they were triple teaming me a lot, a whole lot," he said. "My guys were still looking for me, but they were triple teaming me."

The Tigers actually won the battle of the boards as they out-rebounded South Carolina 50-44, but the Tigers were outscored in the paint 34-20.

In what was a sloppy offensive game, the Gamecocks did not shoot very well either hitting only 36.9 percent of their shots from the field and 15 percent of their three-point attempts. Both teams finished with nine steals, however, the Tigers had 16 turnovers to the Gamecocks 13.

After trailing Auburn by nine with 10:29 remaining in the game, the Tigers' largest lead, the Gamecocks rode the wave of a 13-6 run and a six-minute scoring drought by the Tigers to take a 42-41 lead on a Josh Gonner three-pointer with 4:22 remaining.

Nathan Watson then broke the Tigers' scoring slump by hitting a three pointer to regain the lead for the Tigers at 44-42 with 4:03 remaining. Following a made free throw shot by Brandon Robinson to push the lead to three, the Gamecocks scored five points to take a 47-45 lead with 49 seconds remaining.

Nathan Watson sank both ends of a one and one with 35 seconds to tie the game and a missed baseline jumper by Gonner sent the game to overtime.

In overtime Powell hit a jumper with 3:25 remaining to give the Gamecocks a 49-47 lead. Killingsworth then hit one of two foul shots and on the next possession. Lewis Monroe, who had three assists in 30 solid minutes for the Tigers, found Robinson in the lane for a dunk that gave Auburn a 50-49 lead.

Davis then hit one of two foul shots to take a 51-49 lead with 1:51 remaining. Then a Tarence Kinsey jumper with 34 seconds left tied the game at 51 and led to the inbounds out of a Tigers' timeout that would be the game winner.

The Tigers were led by Killingsworth and Robinson, who scored 12 points each. Robinson added 15 rebounds and two steals and Killingsworth had nine rebounds and three steals. Nathan Watson also dropped in 11 points and six rebounds in the loss.

The star for the Gamecocks was Powell, who led all scorers with 19 points including the game winner. Kerbell Brown added 10 points and two steals, and Gonner also dropped in 10 points.

Auburn led 28-22 at halftime despite shooting just 31 percent from the field to 50 percent for the visitors. However, USC had 11 turnovers, six more than Auburn, enabling the Tigers to hold an edge. AU also helped its cause by hitting 8-11 first half free throws to 1-4 for the physical Gamecocks.

For the game, Auburn was 15-22 at the foul line and USC just 2-7, but Auburn had 11 second half turnovers to just two for South Carolina.

"It was a tough loss, but hats off to South Carolina," Ellis said. "I think they showed why they are 15-2. It was a very physical basketball game and I think they did a great job of adjusting to that."

Marco Killingsworth takes the ball inside.

Killingsworth said that he felt like the Tigers simply did not execute Wednesday night. "We made it to the hole, but I mean we didn't score," he said. "We didn't execute any shots. As we would make a shot they would come back. There were a lot of layups and a lot of jump shots that we normally make that didn't go down for us tonight."

Now the Tigers will try to get back to .500 in conference play on the road against their archrival Alabama Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Davis says that is a challenge that will show what his team is made of.

"The team knows we just lost a tough game," Davis explains. "And we are just going to see how our team responds to that by going into somebody else's backyard and seeing how hard they go and seeing how hard they play."

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