South Carolina misses rare chance for Rupp Arena win

February 08, 2004|MARTY WARREN

LEXINGTON - South Carolina knew it had the chance of a lifetime. The Gamecocks had the ball with just 4.3 seconds to play and the possibility of a last-shot victory in Rupp Arena against Kentucky.

However, when Kerbrell Brown's shot from the baseline hit off the side of the backboard, you could see the disappointment in all of their eyes. The Gamecocks had a chance to win in Rupp for only the second time in school history, and once again they let that chance slip away.

"I was hoping that we would find a way to get that shot to go in, but it just wasn't meant to be," South Carolina guard Tre Kelley said. "You don't get many opportunities to win here, and we felt we let this game slip away from us."

South Carolina is having its most successful season under coach Dave Odom, and the players are confident enough to believe it was an upset that Kentucky beat them Saturday. It all started in Lexington last year, when the Gamecocks nearly overcame a 20-point deficit before losing 62-55.


"We feel like we can beat anybody on our schedule," Kelley said. "But we made some mistakes down the stretch today, and they were able to make the plays that good teams make."

Odom said he feels this year's team is not going to go away easy.

"We take from this game a feeling that, just maybe, we belong somewhere in a meaningful place in this league," Odom said. "Certainly it's a disappointing loss for us. I felt like our team played hard enough to win the basketball game. I thought our team showed up very well over the course of the game.

"(The game) came down to one possession, and we didn't execute very well, and I take full responsibility for that."

South Carolina had a chance to win it at the end. The Gamecocks' Carlos Powell came up with a steal with 24 seconds to play, and South Carolina immediately called timeout to set up a play.

Kentucky tightened its defense in the paint and put just enough pressure on Josh Gonner so that he couldn't get a shot off and instead called another timeout at :04.

"I asked him in the huddle why he didn't shoot the ball, and he explained that he didn't think he had a good shot," Odom said. "I respect that. We certainly didn't want to take a poor shot there."

Instead, Brown's shot at the end hit off the side of the backboard.

"Coach told me to hit Carlos at the post if he was open but to shoot it if he wasn't," Brown said. "I was on the baseline... and I had a bad angle. (Erik) Daniels just forced me to shoot from there with his defense."

"I thought our team deserved a chance to win the basketball game, and we got it," Odom said. "That's all any coach wants: a chance to come in and win the game in the end."

South Carolina guard Mike Boynton was shocked that Brown's final shot didn't go in.

"We had a good look at the basket, and if it doesn't hit the side of the board it probably goes in," said Boynton, who was one of four Gamecocks' in double figures with 12 points. "We missed an opportunity to beat a team ranked in the top 10 on their own floor and gain some respect.

"We had chances down the stretch to put the game away, but we turned the ball over or they would get a stick-back after a rebound.

"Barbour's play to give them a lead was huge. We knew to look for Hayes and Daniels with Fitch out, but we didn't expect Barbour to drive the baseline on us."

The close loss gave Boynton and his teammates something to shoot for in their rematch with Kentucky March 3 in Columbia, S.C.

"We learned a lot today that will help us when we play them later in the year," Boynton said. "We need to find a way to win, though, whether it be boxing out a little better or hitting some key shots down the stretch."

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