South Carolina entered Tuscaloosa with a perfect 15-0 record, a top-20 ranking in the polls and KenPom rankings and plenty of reasons to be excited about the Gamecocks chances to make a run in SEC play. After all there are no potential top-50 opponents on the schedule until February and the 69-65 win against Vanderbilt was all the validation Frank Martin’s team should need.
But on Wednesday night South Carolina ran into an Alabama team that brought Nick Saban-approved performance in front of three members of the recently crowned national championship football team.
Alabama guard Riley Norris his five 3-pointers in the first nine minutes and set the tone in a game where the Tide never trailed and pulled away late for a 73-50 win. Norris finished with a career-high 27 points and left the game to a standing ovation from the crowd.
South Carolina didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball, giving up 18 turnovers, and saw the game slip away with slow starts to both the first and second periods. South Carolina may have experienced a bit of a break through with its win against Vanderbilt, but the road loss to Alabama is a fast reminder of how slim that margin can be for title contenders. They are no longer one of the undefeated teams in the SEC, but the Gamecocks can regroup over the next two weeks before a huge game at Texas A&M on Feb. 6.
South Carolina’s loss also leaves SMU, a team that’s ineligible for the postseason, as the last unbeaten team in college basketball. The Mustangs beat East Carolina 79-55 on Wednesday night.