No. 9 men’s basketball falls to South Carolina 70-59

With the loss, the Cavaliers break a 22-game home win streak in non-conference matchups.

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Senior forward Mamadi Diakite scored a career-high 21 points and was 9-for-11 from the free throw line.

Emma Klein | Cavalier Daily

No. 9 Virginia men’s basketball team’s offensive struggles were apparent against South Carolina as the Gamecocks (8-4, 0-0 SEC) grinded out a 70-59 win Sunday at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers (9-2, 2-0 ACC) allowed a season-high 33 points in the first half but were able to fight back into the game in the second half. Virginia’s 19 turnovers proved fatal as South Carolina ran away with the lead in the final minutes of play. 

Sophomore guard Kody Stattmann put the Cavaliers on the board first with a quick three-pointer, but the Gamecocks responded with a 13-2 run to take the lead in the first five minutes. South Carolina held the lead through the rest of the half as Virginia couldn’t find offensive rhythm. 

The Gamecocks looked impressive as they pressured the Cavalier pack line and built their lead. With under 12 minutes to go in the half, South Carolina led 20-11 and was 8-for-11 from the field while Virginia allowed four turnovers and was just 3-for-8 in shots. 

Junior guard Jair Bolden was unstoppable in the first half as he led the Gamecocks with 15 points while senior forward Mamadi Diakite led the Cavaliers with 10 points.

While Virginia’s offense failed to penetrate and continued to give the ball up, South Carolina scored 12 points off turnovers and found success in quick transition. The Cavaliers were uncharacteristically sloppy with possession, stringing together eight points off free throws while continuing to miss shots from behind the arc. 

With 3:39 to go, the Gamecocks jumped to their largest lead at 31-18. The Cavaliers entered a 6-2 run with a pair of Diakite layups and free-throws by sophomore guard Kihei Clark, leaving the score at 33-24 heading into halftime. South Carolina’s 33 points in the opening half were the most allowed by Virginia this season. 

Senior guard Braxton Key sunk a three in the initial minutes of the second half, but the Gamecocks answered with a 7-2 run to go up 40-29 with 16:37 remaining. 

Trailing 42-29, Virginia fans came to life as the Cavaliers clawed their way back. Freshman guard Casey Morsell added his first points of the game with a three-point play before sinking a momentum-shifting shot from behind the arc to make it a one possession game. 

From there, the game was a back-and-forth battle for the lead. Virginia tied the score at 45 following a three by Clark, a dunk by Diakite and a free throw by Key. South Carolina responded, however, converting on turnovers to go on a 5-0 run.

With under 10 minutes to go, Diakite continued to contribute on offense and surpassed his season high in points with 21 for the day. However, sophomore forward Justin Minaya, sophomore guard A.J. Lawson and Bolden combined on an 8-2 run to push the Gamecock lead to 63-52 with 4:25 on the clock. 

South Carolina held the advantage through the final minutes of play, widening the margin to produce a 70-59 final. The result is a testament to Virginia’s inability to generate on offense, as the team shot just 43.9 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from behind the arc. It was the numerous unforced turnovers and poor ball handling, however, that made the difference as the team couldn’t stop the Gamecocks on the scoring end. 

“I thought there were stretches where we battled and fought and made it more difficult for them to score,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “But that's when … a careless turnover happened or we gave up a transition bucket, an offensive rebound and that was just too much, and I think at times we beat ourselves.” 

Virginia returns home to face Navy at 4 p.m. Sunday, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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