South Carolina suffered a 63-57 loss to fifth-seeded Alabama in the opening round of the 2012 SEC Tournament in New Orleans, La., at the New Orleans Arena on Thursday.
South Carolina (10-21) was led by freshman guard Damien Leonard and sophomore guard Brenton Williams, both with 13 points in the contest. Bruce Ellington added 11 points, all in the second half. Alabama (21-10) was led by freshman guard Trevor Lacey with 15 points. JaMychal Green added 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Gamecocks were plagued by foul trouble throughout the contest. Anthony Gill played just 10 minutes, after picking up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game and a third early in the second half, while Ellington was forced to sit a large portion of the second half after picking up his fourth foul of the contest with 12:53 remaining. The Gamecocks were whistled for 25 fouls in the game, compared to just a dozen for the Crimson Tide.
The game was tightly contested early, as both teams used tight defense to stifle the offenses. A 3-pointer by Leonard at the 12:09 mark on the clock tied the contest at 9-9. After the teams traded baskets the score stood at 13-13, but Alabama would go on a 10-2 run over the course of the next two and a half minutes to take a 23-15 upperhand.
The Crimson Tide pushed its lead to as many as 14, posting a stretch of eight-consecutive made baskets, but two 3's by Leonard late in the half saw the Gamecocks cut the lead to 37-26 at the halftime break.
The Gamecocks hit 40 percent (10-25) of their shot attempts in the opening half, while Alabama connected on 52 percent (14-27). The Gamecocks made both of their free throw attempts, while Alabama hit 9-of-10 from the line. Both teams struggled with turnovers in the first half. South Carolina committed 10 and the Crimson Tide seven.
South Carolina was solid in the first six minutes of the second half, outscoring Alabama 12-5 behind seven points from Ellington and a dunk by freshman forward Carlton Geathers on an assist from Malik Cooke at the 15:57 mark. A jumper by Cooke a minute later cut the lead to four at 42-38, which forced an Alabama timeout.
Alabama regained a 10-point lead on solid free throw shooting, pushing the lead to 50-40 midway through the half, but the Gamecocks continued to battle and back-to-back 3s by Williams knotted the score at 51 with just over six minutes remaining in the contest.
Back and forth play followed with the score close the remainder of the contest. Alabama led 58-53 after a Lacey 3-pointer at the one minute mark (the only 3 of the game by the Tide), before a pair of free throws by Cooke with 48 seconds left closed the score at 58-55. The Gamecocks collected a steal on the inbounds play and used their final timeout of the contest with 43 seconds remaining.
Out of the break, South Carolina missed an attempt from 3-point range and Alabama connected on two free throws at the opposite end. Ellington made a jumper seconds later, but solid free throw shooting by the Crimson Tide in the final seconds saw them close the contest, 63-57.
The Gamecocks hit 44 percent of their shots in the second half (12-of-27), while Alabama was limited to just 5-of-14 from the field (36 percent) in the second half. For the game, Carolina hit 42 percent (22-of-52), while Alabama hit at a 46 percent clip (19-for-41).
Carolina had more field goals (22-19) and had an 8-1 advantage on 3-point baskets, but Alabama hit 24-of-29 free throws compared to just 5-of-6 for the Gamecocks.