Gamecocks Stunned In OT By Clemson

Clemson rallied from eight points down with six minutes remaining in regulation and then from four points down three time in overtime to hand South Carolina a bitter 63-62 defeat Saturday night at the Colonial Center. It was USC's first loss in a nonconferecne game at the Colonial Center since the building opened in November, 2002.

Against its most bitter rival, in one of its biggest games of the season, South Carolina somehow found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

USC failed to hold an eight-point lead with just over six minutes remaining in regulation, then blew a trio of four-point leads in overtime, as the Gamecocks suffered a stunning 63-62 overtime loss to Clemson before a boisterous, near-sellout crowd of 17,828 at the Colonial Center.

The major culprit? Free throws. USC made less than half of its charity tosses (12-for-25), including 4-for-11 in the second half and overtime.

Another culprit? Shooting. USC made only 39.0% (23-for-59) of its shots, including only 4-of-14 from 3-point range. The Gamecocks were particularly dreadful in the first half, making only six of 26 shots overall. USC was also outrebounded, 46-38.

Clemson's Cheyenne Moore drained a 3-pointer from the left side with less than two seconds left for the game-winning points. Clemson had missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but the Tigers grabbed the rebound and the ball ended up in Moore's hand. It was his only triple, and his third field goal, of the night.

The bitter defeat was USC's first nonconference loss at the Colonial Center. The Gamecocks had been 20-0 against nonleague opponents in the three-year old building prior to Saturday night.

With the start of final exams just a few days away, USC must endure the pain and suffering of this difficult loss for 10 days before it takes the court again against South Florida on December 14th.

The deflating defeat wasted a near superhuman effort by sophomore point guard Tre Kelley, who led USC with a career high 22 points. Seemingly immune from fear, Kelley made numerous big shots down the stretch and overtime, and for much of the night carried the Gamecocks on his back.

But, the stat sheet shows he was the only USC scorer in double figures. Carlos Powell (8 points, 2 rebounds) and Tarence Kinsey (0 points, 4 rebounds), two of USC's leaders, were largely ineffective. Renaldo Balkman scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Clemson won despite committing 23 turnovers and shooting 36.8% (21-for-57) from the floor. But the Tigers made the big shots when they had to. Clemson was 3-for-4 from 3-point range and 3-for-4 from the foul line in overtime.

After regulation ended with the teams tied at 51-51, USC quickly jumped out to a four-point lead as Kelley scored two baskets. After USC took a 57-53 lead, Clemson hit its first big shot of OT, a 3-pointer that cut the lead to one.

Kinsey, who may have played his worst game in a USC uniform, missed two key free throws with 2:45 left. Kelley made one of two free throws 28 seconds later to give USC a 58-56 lead.

After a Clemson turnover, Powell hit a layup to give USC its third four-point lead in overtime at 60-56. But the Tigers didn't flinch, hitting a free throw and then a 3-pointer to tie the game at 60-60.

Clemson was called for a foul on an inbounds play and Powell calmly hit two free throws with 13.7 seconds left, setting up the dramatic final moments.

After a dreadful offensive performance in the first half, the Gamecocks struck first in the second half when Kelley made a layup after a Clemson turnover. The basket brought The Gamecocks to within one point (25-24).

Clemson hit a jumper to restore its three-point lead before Josh Gonner grabbed a rebound and hit a dippsy-doo move in the lane to again cut the lead to one (27-26).

USC had several opportunities early in the second half to either take the lead or, at least, tie the score. But the Gamecocks failed each time.

Balkman made the first of two free throws with 15:16 left to make it 28-27 (the missed free on the second attempt could have tied the score).

But Balkman made amends moments later with a layup, finishing off a play that featured some excellent interior passing. The basket gave USC its first lead of the game at 29-28.

Brandon Wallace drained a jumper from the corner to give USC a three-point edge. A dunk by Clemson cut the lead to one (31-30).

Carlos Powell hit a baby hook in the lane for his first field goal of the game, and a 33-30 USC lead.

USC took a 38-32 lead on a jumper by Stephen McDowell with 9:55 left. Clemson fought back to within two (38-36) before a 7-1 USC run gave the Gamecocks a 45-37 lead with 6:24 left. Powell concluded the surge with a baby hook from the side.

A pair of tough runners by Kelley gave USC a 49-43 lead with 3:08 left. But again the Tigers fought back, scoring eight straight points to take a 51-49 lead on a pair of free throws with 19.4 second left.

But Kelley again came through, hitting a runner in the lane with 4.7 seconds left in regulation to tie the game. Clemson ran a play from underneath its basket and had a good look at the basket but the shot went awry and the teams headed to overtime.

The Gamecocks had a difficult time getting cranked up offensively, and it cost USC in the end. USC did get after it defensively from the opening whistle, with two crowd-pleasing blocks in the first two minutes.

The Gamecocks, which struggled early against Clemson's full-court press, didn't score against the Tigers' defense until nearly 3-1/2 minutes had elapsed. Clemson struck first with a 3-pointer with 17:35 left.

USC finally got on the board when Wallace snatched an offensive rebound and laid it in with 16:35 left. The Gamecocks immediately stole the ball away on the inbounds pass, but Kelley missed a driving layup.

Clemson lead, 3-2, when the first media timeout was called with 15:47 left.

USC's struggles on offense continued after the timeout, with two turnovers and a couple of missed jumpers on its first four possessions.

Neither team scored until Clemson hit another 3-pointer with 13:31 left, making it 6-2.

After a steal and layup by Clemson, Dave Odom had seen enough and called for a 30-second timeout with 12:06 left.

When the second media timeout was called with 11:54 left, USC was 1-for-7 from the floor with eight turnovers. Clemson was 3-for-13 with six turnovers.

Rocky Trice broke USC's scoring drought by making the front end of a 1-and-1 with 11:13 left.

A free throw and fast break layup gave Clemson an 11-3 lead with 10:08 left, as USC's offensive woes continued.

Wallace scored USC's second basket of the game with 8:36 left off a nice pass underneath by Tisby.

Clemson added two free throws and led, 13-5, when the third media timeout was called with 7:56 left.

Tisby had a tap-in with 6:36 left to bring USC within six (13-7). But Clemson responded with a 3-pointer from NBA distance to push the lead to nine.

USC finally reached double digits on the scoreboard when Tre Kelley rainbowed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5:48 left. USC had an opportunity to slice the Tigers lead even thinner, but Tisby missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

Kelley swished another triple to bring USC within three (16-13), the closest the Gamecocks had been since the score was 3-2. But Clemson responded with a trey of its own, as the game suddenly became a 3-point battle.

Brandon Wallace sank two of four free throws on two separate trips to the line to make the score 19-15 heading into the fourth and final media timeout with 3:42 left in the first half.

Clemson regained an 8-point advantage (24-16) with a 3-pointer with 2:13 left. Tisby hit two free throws to cut the lead to six.

Balkman made two free throws with 1:27 left, then, on USC's next possession, brought the crowd to its feet with a bulldog effort on the offensive glass. Balkman outfought several Clemson defenders for space, than laid the ball in while being fouled.

Clemson completed the first half scoring (25-22) with a free throw.

USC shot 23.1% (6-for-26) and committed 10 turnovers in the first half (6-for-26). With number like that, the Gamecocks were fortunate to be trailing by only three points.

CLE: 25-26-12=63

USC: 22-29-11=62

USC Leading Scorer: Tre Kelley, 22 points

CLE Leading Scorer: Shawan Robinson, 18 points.

USC Leading Rebounder: Renaldo Balkman, 10.

CLE Leading Rebounder: Sharrod Ford, 8.

Halftime: Clemson, 25-22.

Next Game: Tues 12/14 v. South Florida, 7:30 p.m.

NOTES: USC's starting lineup - G Tre Kelley, G Josh Gonner, F Carlos Powell, F Tarence Kinsey, and C Brandon Wallace. . .The loss snapped USC's four-game winning streak against Clemson. . . USC is now 14-1 against South Carolina schools under Dave Odom. USC has two more game against SC schools this season, S.C. State 12/22) and Wofford (12/31). . .Saturday's game was televised by Fox Sports Net. . .It was the 155th meeting between the bitter rivals. . .USC leads the all-time series, 86-69. . .USC is 53-24 against Clemson in Columbia. . .Two years ago, the teams played in front of 17,072 fans at the Colonial Center. It was a school record then, but now is the seventh largest crowd ever to watch a USC home basketball game. . .New USC head football coach Steve Spurrier was introduced to the large crowd at halftime. He received a loud ovation, and spoke to the crowd for a few minutes. . .USC's next game is Tuesday 12/14 at 7:30 p.m. v. South Florida at the Colonial Center. It will be the final game of USC's season-opening six-game homestand. . .The last time Clemson won a game with a 3-pointer was in 1987 against Maryland.

QUOTES:

USC HEAD COACH DAVE ODOM: "It was truly one of the weirdest games I've been a part of. I wasn't surprise the game started the way it did. I didn't think we would be out of synch offensively as we were. I thought we would take a while getting going offensively. We've spent a lot of time on defense the last week or so. Not much time on offense. That was my mistake. I felt pretty good at halftime. I thought we could win. We made a strong run. But we made a couple of turnovers I would call unforced. Too many errant passes and poor catches. We turned the ball over . And the next thing they know they make an 8-0 run to tie it. We were fortunate to get into overtime. I thought we played well early on in OT. But we made some poor decisions and some poor ticky-tack fouls put their guys on the line.

"Basketball is a game that penalizes you when you don't do something you're supposed to do. We didn't block out. We should have closed them out but we didn't do it. I give Clemson full credit. They are an excellent basketball team. They are well coached and they knew what to do in the clutch. We have to get tougher. We aren't tough enough to win games like that. We have to find guys who are tough enough to win. We have to find guys who can make plays down the stretch."

"Our free throw shooting was putrid. There is no other way to describe it. Tarence did not have a good night. I feel bad for him and our team."

"Tre took the game on himself. He showed some toughness. But the way our team plays you shouldn't need one guy to carry the team. We didn't get that level of play from enough players."

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