Gamecocks fall to LSU 62-55

South Carolina played host to LSU on Wednesday night in a back and forth game that went down to the wire. However, in a trend that can define the Gamecocks' 07-08 basketball season, USC once again faded down the stretch, and the Tigers escaped 62-55.

The game started slowly, with LSU needing 4 minutes to score its first points. Carolina led by as many as 8 in the first half, but the Tigers battled back, finally taking a 23-20 lead with 5:41 left. That lead continued into the half, 29-26, when Garrett Temple hit a three pointer at the buzzer.

"I thought our team played well in the first half," said Dave Odom. "We missed some opportunities early on. There was a time when I thought we could have been building on the lead, and we just didn't do it. That certainly would have helped us to keep those three points off the board [at the end of the half]."

LSU opened the second half with a 9-4 run to take a 38-30 lead. The Gamecocks answered with a 14-2 run that saw them take the lead, 44-40 with 10:06 to play. It was Carolina's first lead since late in the first half. The Tigers got back on track offensively, taking a 50-49 lead with 5:07 left. The teams traded baskets down the stretch, but LSU took the lead for good when Temple hit a pullup jumper with 3:02 left. Interim coach Butch Pierre called a timeout and made a defensive adjustment. The Tigers switched to a zone, which has befuddled Carolina all season, and the Gamecocks did not score again until they were down 7 with 14 seconds to play. The Tigers hit all their free throws down the stretch to hold onto the lead.

"We never play a zone," said Pierre. "At that particular time, they had gotten into a rhythm, and we couldn't stop them on consecutive stops. We took a chance and played some zone and stopped them six straight possessions."

For the Gamecocks, Zam Fredrick came off the bench for the first time this year. He broke out of his shooting slump, scoring a game-high 21 points. His contribution was key, because fellow guard Devan Downey struggled through one of his worst games of the season. He scored just 6 points on 2-9 shooting, but did have six assists. The main reason Downey struggled was the defense played by Temple.

"Garrett Temple, along with Sundiata Gaines at Georgia, is one of the two best defensive guards in the SEC," Odom said. "Length bothers anybody. Devan, at his height, being guarded by a 6'6" guy is troubling. In truth, what happens is when he gets by [Temple] he's still got [Anthony] Randolph and [Chris] Johnson to negotiate, at 6'10"-6'11". It makes it awfully hard for Devan."

Game notes:

- Shooting from the field was far from special, with Carolina shooting 34.4% and LSU shooting 40.7%, but both teams were sterling from the free throw line. LSU went 14-14 from the line, and Carolina was 7-7.

- Carolina tried to compensate for their poor shooting by giving up only 4 turnovers, while LSU had 14. However, the Gamecocks were also outrebounded 44-28.

- Mike Holmes continued to play well for Carolina, and he was joined off the bench by fellow freshman Sam Muldrow. The pair combined for 8 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks, and even played alongside each other at times.

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