South Carolina’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2016-17 season will end just as quickly as it began. On Thursday, the 6-seed Gamecocks went 1-and-done at the Big Dance with an 87-73 loss to 11-seed Oregon.

Former Gamecock guard Jermaine Couisnard consistently broke South Carolina’s defense, attacking the bucket, knocking down 3s over rotating defenders, and making the right play. On the other end, South Carolina struggled to break down Oregon’s matchup zone defense.

The Ducks will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they’ll face 3-seed Creighton on Saturday — pitting Oregon coach Dana Altman against his former school. South Carolina’s second season under coach Lamont Paris comes to a close at 26-8.

Here are 3 takeaways from the game.

Couisnard goes off

South Carolina tried hard to keep N’Faly Dante from hurting it in the paint. When Oregon dumped the ball down to its prolific center, the Gamecocks brought an extra man and tried to make Dante pass out.

Nothing worked. Dante hurt the Gamecocks, finishing with 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting. But Couisnard buried the Gamecocks. He said it wasn’t a revenge game after spending 4 years in Columbia, but Couisnard played like a man possessed, scoring 40 points and dishing 6 assists to lead the Ducks.

Couisnard made 14 of his 22 shots from the field. He made all 7 of his free throws and knocked down 5 of his 9 attempts from 3-point range. Couisnard beat his defender off the dribble and finished around the rim. When he worked off-ball, no closeout was good enough and no rotation was quick enough to keep him from knocking down shots.

It was a special day for the super-senior, who was playing in front of more family than he’s been used to. His grandmother was in attendance to see him play for the first time since he transferred away from South Carolina. The entire family was treated to quite the show.

The 40 points set a new program record for scoring in an NCAA Tournament game, and they were the most by any player in a tournament game since Carson Edwards put up 40 for Purdue in 2019.

South Carolina offense sputters early

Oregon’s defense flustered South Carolina. In the first half, the offense shot just 32% from the field and turned it over 7 times. Oregon’s constantly-changing defensive structure caused issues and the Gamecocks took most of the first half to figure out how to attack. They had only 8 paint points and ended the half averaging 0.879 points per possession.

Once the second half began, the Gamecocks found some rhythm and knocked down 8 of their first 12 shots from the field. That hot stretch made no dent on the scoreboard, though, because of Couisnard’s heroics on the other end. Oregon kept its distance despite South Carolina shooting 57% from the field in the second half.

The Gamecocks made 7 of their 12 attempts from 3 in the second half, too. They just couldn’t pair buckets with stops.

Oregon led by as many as 18 in the second half. The Gamecocks briefly cut the lead to 9 thanks to a 3-pointer from Meechie Johnson with 15:33 to play, but Couisnard answered that with a personal 8-0 run and the margin never dipped into single digits again.

Johnson finished with a team-high 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting. BJ Mack had 13 points but fouled out in 20 minutes. Ta’lon Cooper scored 10. No other South Carolina player had more than 6.

Gamecocks can still call the season a success

South Carolina entered the year as the preseason pick to finish last in the SEC. Instead, it went 13-5 against the SEC and earned a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. Losing to Auburn in the quarters and then dropping out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round will no doubt leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, but there’s plenty to be proud of in Columbia.

The 26 wins for South Carolina ties a program record for wins in a single season. The 13 conference wins are the second-most in a season since joining the SEC.

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