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Gamecocks can’t wrestle road win from Missouri, drop 8th straight game

South Carolina men’s basketball is bigger than GG Jackson.

Clearly, that’s the message head coach Lamont Paris tried to send in Tuesday night’s Gamecock 83-74 at Missouri.

Jackson, the 18-year-old star freshman and team scoring leader, opened the game on the bench for USC days after he ranted about not getting the ball in “crunch time” against Arkansas in a live social media video from the locker room. Jackson had started the previous 23 games.

Even without their top player on the court for much of the first half, the Gamecocks shot 56% and went toe-to-toe against a quality Tigers (18-6, 6-5 SEC) team, but Mizzou pulled away in the game’s final four minutes to deal USC (8-16, 1-10) its eighth-straight loss.

Here’s what we learned from the USC defeat.

Jackson’s impact off the bench

Jackson didn’t check into Tuesday’s game until the 13:57 mark of the first half. He wasn’t even the first player to come off the USC bench — that honor went to center Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk at the first media timeout.

The apparent punishment stemmed from comments that seemed critical of Paris and included profanity. After the Gamecocks lost 65-63 to Arkansas, Jackson told his Instagram followers that he should have more plays drawn up for him.

“Why don’t I have the ball in my hands when it’s crunch time?” Jackson said to more than 120 viewers. “Ain’t I supposed be that quote-unquote, ‘Oh my God, GG..’ I don’t see myself as that, but ain’t I supposed to be that? Just give me that (expletive). I’m not even getting plays drawn up for me in crunch time.”

Jackson later apologized for the remarks with a written statement on social media, but the apology wasn’t enough to avoid sitting on the bench to begin Tuesday’s game.

Once Jackson entered against Missouri, he quickly shook off the punishment. The ball found him almost immediately in the corner, and Jackson drained a 3-pointer to tie the contest. He proceeded to make two more 3-pointers and score 11 points on efficient 4-of-6 shooting.

Jackson also opened the second half on the bench, but he still finished the game with a team-high 23 points in 27 minutes.

Turnovers fuel Mizzou

First-year coach Dennis Gates has installed a fast-paced system at Mizzou, with players who create turnovers at a high level and thrive on running in transition.

Coming into the game, Mizzou ranked second in the country with 10.7 steals per game, and the Gamecocks had their hands full against the Tigers’ physical press defense.

Ball-handling hasn’t been a strength for the Gamecocks, and with Mizzou clogging passing lanes, USC turned the ball over 14 times. Mizzou scored 18 points off of those turnovers.

Forward Kobe Brown did the bulk of the offensive damage for the Tigers, scoring 19 points, but Mizzou had four scorers in double digits for the game.

USC wastes strong shooting effort

The Gamecocks have not been a premier shooting team, especially not in conference play (38.2%), but they were sharp shooting the ball at Mizzou.

At points, the game felt reminiscent of USC’s performance at Kentucky — its lone SEC win — in which the Gamecocks made 11 3-pointers and shot 48%.

The Gamecocks shot even better against Mizzou, making 52% of their field goals and making nine of 25 3-point attempts. Veteran forward Hayden Brown carried USC early on with Jackson on the bench, cutting toward the basket and scoring at the rim and finishing with 19 points. And sophomore guard Jacobi Wright, who started in place of Jackson, also added a pair of 3-pointers.

Next four USC MBB games

Saturday: at Ole Miss, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

Feb. 14: vs. Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Feb. 18: at LSU, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

Feb. 22: Alabama, 9 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU)