Tigers Lose Rollercoaster Game To Gamecocks

The Tigers' regular season ended with a 67-63 loss to South Carolina.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn blew an early 10-point lead, nearly came back from a 17-point deficit, but came up short on Senior Day against South Carolina by the score of 67-63.

The Tigers trailed by 13 points with just 3:30 remaining, but they forced turnovers and turned them into points to close the gap. Rasheem Barrett sank a three-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining to pull within two, but Tre Kelley sank two free throws on the other end with 1.7 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Gamecocks.

"It was typical of the year we've had," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "We had that 10 minute stretch where we had a meltdown. Starting in the first half and the first eight minutes of the second half is where we really struggled."

Auburn led early and had momentum when Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum showed its age as the shot clocks went out, something that has happened regularly in recent years. It was the second time this season when Auburn was making a run when there was a malfunction with the coliseum equipment. It also happened in the Tigers' loss to LSU on Feb. 18.

"It's frustrating," Lebo said of the shot clock breakdown. "I don't know if it had anything to do with it, but both times it happened we were playing pretty well. It's just kind of like one of those double TV timeouts when you're trying to stop a run.

"We stop our own self," he added. "They don't even have a use a timeout a lot of times. It's frustrating. It didn't cost us the game, but it didn't help us. We need new clocks along with a lot of other things. I'm trying not to anticipate. I'm trying to cut back on my anticipations."

It was also a frustrating end of a home career for Auburn's lone senior, Ronny LeMelle, who had 12 points, six assists and five rebounds.

"We got out of sync for a good stretch of time toward the end of the first half and the beginning," he said. "We picked it up, but it was too late to pick it up.

"It was a special moment at the beginning, but then after the ceremony it was just another game," the senior added. "I really wanted to win, but it doesn't work out like that all of time."

Ronny LeMelle is flanked by his girl friend and head coach at pre-game ceremonies for his Senior Day.

Barrett, who scored 13 points, said that LeMelle has helped him develop as a player and as a person in his freshman season at Auburn.

"He's like a big brother to me and I love him," Barrett said.

LeMelle replied, "I love you too, dog."

"I'm just happy I got to rub off on some of them," LeMelle added. "I know they're going to have a great future here. Coach Lebo has a good foundation going for the future and I'm sad I'm not going to be a part of it, but I feel like I helped start it. I'm just happy and I wish them all the best. I'll be back around to make sure they're doing the right things."

Lebo said that his soft-spoken senior will definitely be missed.

"I'm proud of Ronny," Lebo noted. "I wish we would have put a W on senior day. I love him. He's had a heck of a season for us. It's frustrating that we couldn't get some more Ws for him. He's been terrific."

Tarence Kinsey proved to be the difference maker in the game for the Gamecocks with 24 points on 8-13 shooting. He hit 4-8 shots from behind the arch. Rocky Trice and Kelley were also in double figures with 11 points and 10 points, respectively.

Rebounding was also a big factor in the game as the Gamecocks grabbed 14 offensive boards in which they turned into 19 points.

Auburn dropped to 12-15 overall and finished the regular season at 4-12 in conference play. The 12 wins are much more than many people predicted the Tigers would win.

South Carolina is now one game above .500 at 15-14 overall. The Gamecocks are 6-10 in the SEC.

As of the end of the Auburn verses South Carolina game, the Tigers first round opponent in the SEC tournament in Nashville could be Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia or South Carolina. However, the most likely scenario is a rematch with the Gamecocks.

Everything in the SEC will be decided after the Arkansas verses Georgia game on Sunday, which is scheduled for a 1 p.m. CST tip.

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