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USC Gamecocks' upset bid falls flat in second half

A bandage covered the one-inch gash above Malik Cooke's left eye that South Carolina's medical staff glued shut earlier Saturday afternoon.

Cooke said his eye, which met the wrong end of an inadvertent elbow, was "feeling fine." His puffy eyelid indicated otherwise.

Cooke, the Gamecocks' leading scorer and only senior, had just played perhaps his best game since he debuted at South Carolina last season after transferring from Nevada. In a 74-66 loss to second-ranked Ohio State, he shot 6 of 10 and scored 21 points, one shy of his career high in Columbia.

The Gamecocks (4-6) performed admirably against an elite team - an encouraging sign for a team that needed one. They led by six points a minute and a half into the second half. They never led after the 15:54 mark, but trailed by just three with 10:59 left and were never down by more than 13.

"We just learned a lot about ourselves today, that we're a bunch of fighters," Cooke said.

The Gamecocks made 47.9 percent of their shots and played "by far" their best offensive game of the season against "by far" the best defensive team they've played to this point, said South Carolina coach Darrin Horn.

But in the end, the Gamecocks didn't rebound enough and Ohio State (10-1) had too much talent, even with its leading scorer, power forward Jared Sullinger, playing just six minutes, all in the first half, because of a bone bruise on his left foot that he sustained when he accidentally got kicked.

The Gamecocks were outrebounded 34-19. Usually capable on the offensive glass, they pulled down just seven of their 25 missed shots. Ohio State missed 27 shots and rebounded 15 of them - three more than the number of defensive rebounds the Gamecocks grabbed.

With Sullinger out and South Carolina's defense focusing on stopping guard William Buford, who scored 17 points, sophomore small forward Deshaun Thomas took advantage of opportunities for open shots and scored a career-best 30 points.

Thomas might have entered the game as Ohio State's third scorer, behind Sullinger and Buford. But he is plenty talented - the No. 22 overall recruit in the Class of 2010, according to Rivals.com - and usually, the team with the most talented players wins.

Still, the Gamecocks did not wilt while playing in front of a larger-than-usual home crowd that might have included more Ohio State fans. Sullinger wrote on Twitter afterward that it "felt like a home game."

No. 2 OHIO ST. 74,

SOUTH CAROLINA 66

OHIO ST.

Min

FG-A

FT-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Sullinger

6

1-2

1-1

1-2

0

1

3

Thomas

40

13-16

2-3

5-6

3

2

30

Craft

38

1-3

2-5

1-3

4

3

4

Smith Jr

33

2-6

4-4

4-9

3

3

9

Buford

40

5-14

5-5

0-5

5

2

17

Sibert

7

0-2

0-0

0-1

1

0

0

Scott

2

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Thompson

1

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Weatherspoon

0

0-0

0-0

1-1

0

0

0

Williams

15

3-6

0-0

1-4

0

3

6

Ravenel

18

2-5

1-2

2-3

0

4

5

Totals

200

27-54

15-20

15-34

16

19

74

Percentages: FG .500, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 5-16, .313 (Thomas 2-5, Buford 2-6, Smith Jr. 1-1, Craft 0-1, Williams 0-1, Sibert 0-2). Team Rebounds: 0. Blocked Shots: 3 (Williams 2, Sullinger). Turnovers: 12 (Thomas 4, Smith Jr. 3, Ravenel 2, Sullinger, Buford, Craft). Steals: 7 (Ravenel 2, Buford 2, Craft 2, Sibert). Technical Fouls: Williams.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Min

FG-A

FT-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Gill

18

4-6

3-3

2-4

2

2

11

Cooke

31

6-10

9-10

1-3

3

2

21

Harris

28

2-4

0-0

0-2

1

0

4

Smith

23

2-5

0-0

1-1

1

0

5

Jackson

28

3-7

0-1

1-2

0

4

6

Williams

0

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Richardson

3

0-1

0-0

0-0

1

0

0

Ellington

23

3-7

0-0

0-1

1

4

8

Leonard

22

2-6

1-2

1-3

0

3

7

Slawson

16

1-2

0-0

0-0

0

3

3

Geathers

8

0-0

1-2

1-3

0

0

1

Totals

200

23-48

14-18

7-19

9

18

66

Percentages: FG .479, FT .778. 3-Point Goals: 6-15, .400 (Ellington 2-4, Leonard 2-6, Smith 1-2, Slawson 1-2, Cooke 0-1). Team Rebounds: 0. Blocked Shots: 4 (Cooke, Gill, Geathers, Ellington). Turnovers: 15 (Gill 4, Leonard 2, Smith 2, Cooke 2, Slawson, Williams, Richardson, Jackson, Ellington). Steals: 3 (Cooke 2, Harris). Technical Fouls: None.

Ohio St.

29

45

-

74

South Carolina

33

33

-

66

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