The Auburn head coach's premonition proved to be correct as Auburn played one of its poorest games of the season in losing 69-63 to the Gamecocks.
Auburn hit just 39.3 percent of its field goals and was just 5-23 on three-pointers. The visitors hit 52.9 percent of their field goals led by mighty mite guard Devan Downey, who topped all scorers with 21 points. The five-foot-nine guard hit 8-14 field goals, dished out six assists and added five of his team's eight steals.
"We weren't very sharp," Lebo said. "Give them credit though. We weren't sharp offensively and we weren't sharp defensively or mentally or physically sharp for this game."
Junior guard Quantez Robertson said he played the same way he always plays--all out, every minute, but he admitted after the loss, "They wanted it more than we did."
Robertson said he credits the Gamecocks for their good play. "Most of inside didn't come out and play like that," Robertson said when asked if his team didn't was laidaiscal. "They just made some good plays on offense and defense. They were quicker to the ball than us and played a lot smarter than us and got the 'W.'"
Frank Tolbert, another Tiger known for his hustle, said he can look in the mirror knowing he gave it his full effort, but he too admitted, "At some point in the game we kind of fell off."
That point was late in the first half and midway in the second half when a 47-44 lead by the Gamecocks was extended to 14 as the Tigers scored just four points from the 11:07 mark until there was under five minutes to play.
The Tigers turned up the intensity, cutting the lead to 64-61 with 1:13 to play on a basket and free throw by Tolbert. With the crowd of 6,294 into the game, Auburn looked like it would have a chance to pull out a victory, but the Tigers went cold shooting and the Gamecocks held on for a six-point victory.
Auburn led by as many as a dozen points in the first half, but by intermission the visitors had trimmed the margin to 34-31.
The Tigers hit 15-28 shots in the first 20 minutes, but were unusually sloppy with the basketball, turning it over 11 times in 20 minutes after having just four for the entire game at Mississippi State on Wednesday.
Carolina managed to keep the game close in the first 20 minutes despite being out-rebounded 18-11 and being outshot from the field 53.6 percent to 44.8 percent. The visitors made just 1-10 threes in the first half.
Saturday's performance was not easy to watch for Coach Jeff Lebo.
For the game, the Tigers had 15 turnovers to 11 for South Carolina.
Auburn out-rebounded USC 38-28 and made 10-12 free throws while the Gamecocks, who improved to 13-15 overall and 5-9 in the league, made 12-17 free throws.
DeWayne Reed plays defense against 5-9 guard Devan Downey, who gave the Tigers problems on Saturday.
Lebo said that Downey's play was probably the difference inthe game. Robertson said the small guard was difficult to stop.
"He is as fast as us and he was coming off ball screens and getting good looks and getting to the paint," Robertson said. "He can shoot the threes, too, so he is tough to guard.
Auburn, which fell to 4-10 in the league and 14-13 overall, returns to action in the home finale on Wednesday at 7 p.m. vs. Georgia.