COLUMBIA -- Regardless of how the Gamecocks finish this season, BJ McKie just can't get accustomed to losing.
The senior guard had never played on a team with a sub-.500 record until this year. His production and desire has never waned throughout South Carolina's miserable season.
Despite an 8-for-14 shooting performance by McKie, the Gamecocks fell to Arkansas 72-66 on Wednesday at the Carolina Coliseum. McKie was bumped, smacked and elbowed all night but continued to drive the lane with reckless abandon.
McKie scored 17 of his team-high 25 points in the second half but couldn't do it all by himself. He had 17 of USC's final 22 points with bandages on both knees after being knocked to the hardwood several times in the first half.
"It was a very physical game," McKie said. "We expect that when we play Arkansas."
Bud Johnson's 18-footer with 16:38 remaining in the game trimmed Arkansas' lead to 44-42. The Razorbacks (17-7, 6-5 SEC) responded with a 14-6 run to mount a 58-48 advantage. McKie was pounded by Kareem Reid in the lane and his off-balance shot banked off the glass and in. He made his bonus free-throw and at the 3:08 mark, the Gamecocks (7-16, 2-9) trailed 66-63.
South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler senses McKie's frustration with losing but needs his only consistent player to get everybody involved. He also said McKie's supporting cast can't afford to become lackadaisical.
"The team gets disappointed when it comes up dry offensively," Fogler said. "They tend not to react well to adversity. They tend to stop competing when things get tough."
Despite having Reid and Derek Hood foul out in the final 2:28, the Razorbacks were able to fend off the Gamecocks. Freshmen guards Brandon Dean and T.J. Cleveland combined for 24 points for the Razorbacks while junior Chris Walker had 11.
The Gamecocks played inspired ball in the first half, frequently diving on the floor for loose balls and offensive rebounding with a passion. It would be 42 points Arkansas's six freshman that proved too much for South Carolina.
In a half characterized by physical play and runs by both teams, South Carolina hung with the Razorbacks through the first 20 minutes. The Gamecocks trailed 40-36 by getting two hustle buckets in the final 25 seconds of half number one.
William Gallman dunked home a baseball pass at the 25-second mark. He finished second to McKie with 12 points for the Gamecocks. McKie's hustle paid off right before the horn. Patrick Bradley, in his first start of the season, turned the ball over and a scramble ensued.
With the ball near midcourt, McKie dove and tipped it down court where Herbert Lee Davis picked it up and stuffed it with :03 remaining in the half. McKie said he didn't feel he had to carry the team, he was reacting to the defense in front of him.
"I take what the defense gives me," McKie said. "I do what I can to help the team out. Every time we gave them a punch, they countered and gave us a punch of their own."
Arkansas led 35-26 after a Joe Dean Davenport basket with 3:16 left before halftime. The Razorbacks had an 11-0 run lasting 1:51 that saw them turn a 9-5 deficit into a 16-9 advantage at the 13:56 mark.
South Carolina answered with a 10-2 run covering 1:29 to narrow Arkansas' lead to 23-22. Davis came off the bench to lead the Gamecocks with 10 points in the first half and it was his mid-range jumper that got his team within one point of the Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks had a balanced attack in the opening stanza. Ten different players scored.
The Gamecocks are on pace to establish a dubious school record. South Carolina has recorded at least three SEC wins since joining the conference in 1991. Fogler's worst season saw USC go 4-12 in SEC play during the 1993-94 campaign, the two-time SEC coach of the year's first season in Columbia.
USC has five regular-season SEC games remaining and has already lost to all of its opponents once this season with the exception of Louisiana State (10-10, 3-8 SEC).
South Carolina hasn't faced the worst team in the Western Division but the two bottom-dwellers square off Feb. 17 in Baton Rogue for the conference's inferiority title.
Trips to No. 8 Kentucky and No. 23 Florida loom on the Gamecocks' horizon. South Carolina completes the regular-season when Georgia comes to Columbia on Feb. 27.
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