What went wrong in South Carolina’s 24-point road loss to George Washington

Joshua Boucher/jboucher@thestate.com

Not much has come easily for the South Carolina men’s basketball team in its first season under Lamont Paris — and the same held true in USC’s first road test of the season.

Facing off against George Washington at the Charles E. Smith Center, the Gamecocks clearly left whatever offensive progress they had made back home in Columbia.

The Gamecocks lost to the Colonials 79-55, struggling to hit shots from the opening tipoff. USC (3-4) never held a lead against the Colonials (5-2), who thrilled the lively hometown crowd with a barrage of dunks and 3-pointers.

Though the Gamecocks played three games — and lost all three — in the Charleston Classic earlier in the month, Wednesday’s game marked USC’s first true road contest. The Gamecocks will remain in the nation’s capital to face Georgetown on Saturday.

Here’s what we learned from Wednesday’s USC loss.

Shots don’t fall for USC

Simply put, the USC offense was anemic Wednesday.

The Gamecocks opened the game by making just two of 12 field-goal attempts, prompting Paris to take an early first-half timeout.

But it didn’t get any better. At one point the Gamecocks had made just four of 22 field goals, and they finished the first half shooting at an eight-for-33 clip, benefiting from a last-second 3-pointer at the tail end of the half.

Perhaps due to the team’s recent rash of injuries or due to inexperience, the Gamecocks looked disjointed on the offensive end. Even when they created open looks, they routinely failed to capitalize on them. Paris has lamented the team’s inability to make layups and easy buckets, and that was the case again Wednesday.

USC’s leading scorer for the season, GG Jackson, had a quiet game (11 points) by his standards, and the Gamecocks couldn’t find other sources of offense.

Lack of defensive intensity

Paris has talked often about his defensive-first mindset and the specific principles he asks his players to follow — many handed down from former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.

One of the goals of Paris’ defense is to make the opposing team feel uncomfortable, yet the Colonials couldn’t have looked more comfortable on the offensive end.

The first very play of the game was a wide-open dunk by George Washington center Hunter Dean, and the ease of that score set the tone for the remaining 40 minutes.

The Colonials are a strong-shooting team, ranking 18th in the country in effective field-goal percentage per KenPom.com, and they put those talents on display, shooting 50.8% and making 12 of 27 3-point attempts.

Injury updates

With all the turnover from last year’s squad, we already knew this year’s USC team wouldn’t be deep. But a string of early season injuries haven’t helped.

In good news for the Gamecocks, both guards Chico Carter Jr. and Meechie Johnson were available Wednesday after dealing with ankle injuries that sidelined them in the team’s win over USC Upstate. Carter started for the Gamecocks while Johnson — whose injury was more severe — played off of the bench.

In bad news for the Gamecocks, promising freshman Daniel Hankins-Sanford didn’t make the trip to Washington due to an illness. His status is unclear for Saturday’s game.

Veteran forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk had a close call, staying behind in Columbia to take an in-person exam on Wednesday. Bosmans-Verdonk flew in a day later than his Gamecocks teammates but was able to get to the arena in time to draw the start.

Next four USC MBB games

Dec. 3: at Georgetown, 12 p.m. (FS1)

Dec. 11: vs. Presbyterian, 6 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Dec. 14: at UAB, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Dec. 17: vs East Carolina (Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville), 2 p.m., TBD