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So close yet so far; Mizzou drops another tight SEC contest to South Carolina

The Tigers mounted a handful of rallies but couldn’t close the deal in crunch time.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou yet again fought hard but dropped a close conference contest in a 72-64 loss to South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday.

Sean East II and Tamar Bates combined for 37 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but the team as a whole shot 2-for-8 from behind the arc and suffered through multiple cold stretches.

Forward B.J. Mack led the way for the home side with 21 points on 6-for-11 shooting, and SC shot a sizzling 40% from behind the arc as a unit. That made up for the Tigers’ 40-20 paint points advantage.

“We did a tremendous job executing our game plan,” Dennis Gates said. “We wanted to win points in the paint, but we didn’t come away with fouls or baskets to cut the lead to two or three points.”

A 9-0 run to open up the second half allowed Mizzou to claim its first lead since the opening minutes at 40-39, and the two sides traded baskets over the following four minutes.

“We were able to get to the foul line a little bit more than we had all season long,” Gates said. “We were aggressive in offensive sets and executed out of timeouts.”

But, the Gamecocks got hot from behind the arc and began to extend their lead out to seven, and then as much as 10 in the closing minutes.

Mizzou rallied thanks to some tough buckets from East and Bates, but veteran SC guard Jacobi Wright closed the game out from the free throw line, dropping the Tigers to 0-7 in SEC play.

Just like it did in the second half, Mizzou jumped out to an early advantage in the opening frame, but that would be the only time the Tigers led in the first half. The Gamecocks went on a 24-6 run over the ensuing 10 minute span, and it was largely sparked by one individual.

It was the Mack show for South Carolina early on. The graduate transfer from Wofford scored in every way imaginable, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers, three free throws and shooting 5-for-7 from the floor overall in the opening half of this game.

“He can shoot it, he can put it on the ground,” East said of Mack. “He’s a big body so we just tried not to give him many advantages.”

Mack’s offensive efficiency spearheaded a fairly dominant first half from the Gamecocks, who assisted on 12 of their 15 made baskets.

Following the trend of recent games, the tandem of East and Bates kept the Tigers within striking distance. They combined to shoot 8-for-12 from the floor and really attacked the South Carolina defense off the dribble.

The Tigers will return home to take on rivals Arkansas (10-8, 1-5) next Wednesday, Jan. 31st. The pivotal swing game can be seen at 7:30 p.m. CST on the SEC Network.