Gamecocks suffer first loss of season to visiting Elon

South Carolina (3-1) fell to Elon (4-1) 65-53 on Wednesday night in non-conference action at Colonial Life Arena. Senior forward Lakeem Jackson led the Gamecocks in the effort with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Junior guard Brenton Williams added nine points for the Gamecocks. Junior guard Brian Richardson and junior forward RJ Slawson each added seven points and eight rebounds. The eight rebounds were a career high for Richardson who also dished out four assists. South Carolina turned the ball over 22 times on the night, leading to 18 Elon points. For the third game in a row, the Gamecocks were without freshman forward Michael Carrera.

Three Elon players scored in double figures. Junior forward Lucas Troutman led the team with 15 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Jack Isenbarger and sophomore guard Austin Hamilton netted 13 points apiece as well. Junior guard Sebastian Koch brought down a team-leading seven rebounds. As a team, Elon shot 53.5% from behind the arc, hitting eight in the matchup.

Despite falling behind 11-3 early and tallying seven turnovers in the first ten minutes, South Carolina kept Elon within striking distance. Senior guard LaShay Page sank a shot from behind the arc at the 10:27 mark to bring the Gamecocks to within three at 18-15, but South Carolina was unable to score for the next eight minutes. The Phoenix scored 10 unanswered points during the stretch to give them a 28-15 upper hand. Sophomore guard Damien Leonard ended the Gamecock dry spell with back-to-back 3-pointers to cut into the Elon lead to seven.

Richardson found Jackson in transition for a bucket with 36 seconds remaining in the half, but Elon’s Isenbarger responded with a 3-pointer with three seconds to go, giving the Phoenix a 31-23 advantage going into the locker room.

After the break, a Richardson 3-pointer and a free throw by freshman forward Mindaugas Kacinas brought the Gamecocks to within four to start the second half, but the Phoenix responded with two 3s of their own to extend the lead back to 10.

Williams, who scored all nine of his points in the second half, cut the lead to four at 39-35 with 15:29 remaining when he poked the ball away and took it the distance for a dunk. The Gamecocks would not get any closer.

Down 53-37 with 10:42 remaining, South Carolina made one last attempt to rally and set off on a 15-4 run to cut the deficit to five. Jackson scored six points in the stretch, with two of them coming on an emphatic dunk in transition. The spurt forced Elon to call timeout to stop the surging Gamecock momentum. After the timeout, the Phoenix responded with three unanswered baskets, all by Troutman, to again give the Phoenix the win.

South Carolina takes off to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for their next matchup. The Gamecocks take on Missouri State in the Hoops for Hope Classic at 7 p.m. Saturday. The tournament continues on Sunday with South Carolina facing SMU or ULAR.

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