Elon tops Carolina again, 65-53

For the second year in a row, Elon defeated a sluggish South Carolina team, this time in Columbia. Elon beat Carolina 65-53 Wednesday night to hand the Gamecocks their first loss of the season.

Despite a second-half rally, the South Carolina men's basketball could not overcome a sloppy first half performance, falling to Elon 65-53 Wednesday night at the Colonial Life Arena.

"I told you guys you get what you deserve," head coach Frank Martin said. "I know you guys were looking at me like I had six heads the other night. I hope you understand what I see every day.

"When you play lifeless and helpless and you don't sprint to where you belong on the floor and you get away from the basics and fundamentals that you need on both ends of the floor, and you just rely on guys jumping up and making shots, you're not going to beat the good teams," he continued. "You're not going to beat teams that play with the discipline and toughness that Elon plays with. When I was in here after the last game I had already watched Elon, and I knew what was coming."

Martin said Monday that his team was playing with "fool's gold" the first three games of the season. The Gamecocks' gold ran out Wednesday as Carolina shot just 32% from the floor and turned the ball over 22 times. Carolina turned the ball over five times in the first five minutes of the game, including four of their first six possessions as the Phoenix built an early 6-1 lead.

"I don't think we hit a lot of shots this game," Lakeem Jackson said. "They were really in tune and ran the offense, but a couple of guys just really weren't in tune tonight.

"We'll take this game as a lesson learned that you can't take any team for granted and come back and get ready for the next game."

The Carolina turnovers continued over the next six minutes as Carolina turned the ball over 10 times in the first 11 minutes of the half. Despite the turnovers they were down just 18-15 with just under 10:30 left to play in the game. Carolina would go the next 8:03 without a point as Elon went on a 10-0 run to stretch the lead to 28-15. Damien Leonard would finally break the drought with a pair of three-pointers and a Lakeem Jackson scored inside to trim the lead to 28-23 with under a minute to play in the half. Elon's Jack Isenbarger would drain a three with under ten seconds left in the half to give Elon the momentum back and a 31-23 lead at the half.

Brian Richardson drained a three to begin the second half and Mindaugas Kacinas hit the frontend of two free throws to trim the lead to four, but that would be the closest Carolina would get the remainder of the game. Sebastian Koch and Austin Hamilton hit back-to-back three's to quickly stretch the lead to 37-27. After Carolina was able to trim the lead back down to 39-33 just under four minutes into the half, and Brenton Williams would get a fastbreak dunk to trim the lead back to four.

As was the case the entire game, Elon answered with a three-pointer, this time by Tanner Samson, as Elon scored nine straight to bust out to a 13 point lead. Carolina would not draw closer than seven the remainder of the game.

Jackson was the only Carolina player to finish in double figures, finishing with a double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. He also pulled down a game-high six offensive rebounds.

"We don't defend and we don't stick to the principles of our defensive philosophies offensively, last game we didn't stick to it but we won so everybody thinks it's nice and dandy," Martin said. "I got one guy that can offensive rebound. It's amazing to me that we can have one guy to get his hand on almost every single offensive rebound and be the first big to get back on defense. The other guys can't get an offensive rebound and can't get back on defense."

Wednesday night was a night Carolina could have used the services of freshman Michael Carrera. Carrera, who has missed the last three games with a concussion. Carrera warmed up with the team and went through all the pregame shooting drills, but was scratched shortly before the game began for the second consecutive game.

"We definitely miss him down there in the post and on defense getting rebounds and firing everybody up," Jackson said. "It's good to have a guy like that in the huddle or on the court with you."

South Carolina, 3-1 on the year, leaves on Thursday to go down to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to finish up the Hoops for Hope Classic. Carolina won the first two games of the Classic with wins over Milwaukee and Rider. Carolina will play Missouri State at 7:00 Saturday and SMU or UALR Sunday at a time to be determined.

"They played hard, but they let their opponents get the best of them," Jackson said. "I'm going to talk to them and have a team meeting just to regroup to get ready for Mexico."

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