No. 19 South Carolina goes cold in 73-50 loss to Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) South Carolina lost its shooting touch and its first game.
Now, the 19th-ranked Gamecocks finally get to find out how they respond to defeat after losing 73-50 Wednesday night to Alabama with an utterly uncharacteristic performance. Only the bid for perfection is over for South Carolina (15-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference).
''We didn't sign up to win 15,'' Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said. ''We didn't sign up to pout when we lose. We signed up to play a whole season, and these guys have grown up a lot. If these guys act the way I think they will (Thursday) we'll be real good at practice and go out and play Saturday and hopefully play a lot better than we did today.''
The upset leaves No. 10 SMU as the nation's only unbeaten major college team.
Riley Norris hit his first seven 3-point attempts and scored a career-high 27 points to lead Alabama (10-5, 1-2) to the first league win of Avery Johnson's debut season.
''Incredible win for us,'' Johnson said, adding that the Tide's scout team had dominated the starters a day earlier.
The Gamecocks missed their first 12 shots of the second half and went more than 11 minutes without a field goal starting before the break. They ended an 8-minute scoring drought after halftime down 48-22.
South Carolina never cut it below 18 after that.
''I think we played awful,'' said Michael Carrera, who led the Gamecocks with 14 points and 10 rebounds. ''We played awful. Offensively and defensively, we played awful.''
Norris made the most of his first start of the season, shooting 8 of 11 on 3s. He also grabbed seven rebounds. Justin Coleman added 14 points and six assists off the bench after Norris took his place.
Johnson decided to start Norris two days earlier and was richly rewarded for that call. Coleman wasn't surprised.
''Riley's a great shooter,'' he said. ''He's one of the best shooters in the country so every time it leaves his hand, I always think it's going in.''
The Gamecocks didn't come close to their previous scoring low of 65 points. They were also outrebounded for only the second time, and Martin said his players ''got beat to every ball.''
He said he saw some signs of slippage in the last couple of practices with the team getting unaccustomed amounts of attention.
''What makes us good is that we usually play like Alabama played,'' Martin said ''We didn't play like that.
''That's our identity. When we don't play like, we're just like another team. When we play like that, then we've got a chance to be all right.''
Norris hit a 3-pointer from a couple of feet beyond the arc to punctuate a 13-0 Alabama run to open the second half. It forced Martin to call time out, but the South Carolina shots never started falling.
Alabama didn't need a big game from leading scorer Retin Obasohan, who had just four points.
South Carolina's top scorer, Sindarius Thornwell, also struggled. He scored two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
The Gamecocks struggled across the board in shooting. They made just 19 of 53 shots (35.8 percent), 3 of 18 3-pointers (16.7 percent) and 9 of 17 free throws (52.9 percent).
Norris matched his career-high of 18 points by halftime, triple his season average coming into the game. The sophomore already topped his previous high of five field goals in the half, going 6 of 8.
Alabama football players Derrick Henry, Reggie Ragland and Kenyan Drake were honored during a first-half timeout two days after the Tide won the national title over another team from South Carolina, Clemson. ''That was a big standing ovation that they got and it kept the energy in the building,'' said Johnson, who was in Arizona for the championship game.
South Carolina: Started 1-of-8 shooting with seven turnovers in first seven minutes, falling into a 13-2 hole that kept expanding. Had reached program's highest ranking since 1998.
Alabama: Improved to 3-2 against Top 25 teams this season. Leads series 14-2 in Tuscaloosa. Made 12 of 21 3-pointers.
South Carolina: hosts Missouri on Saturday.
Alabama: visits Vanderbilt on Saturday.