South Carolina successfully avenged its first loss of the season. The Gamecocks took care of Alabama, 78-64, at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday night.
Nearly three weeks ago, the Tide handed USC their first loss of the year, in an embarrassing route in Tuscaloosa. Hot-shooting Riley Norris fueled Alabama victory and South Carolina's record went from unblemished to scarred.
Saturday's game marked the first rematch of the season for the Gamecocks.
In front of a capacity crowd thanks to the Legends Weekend festivities, an emotional USC team got out to an early 12-5 lead, hitting five of their first seven shots. The superb start offensively would not last as the game slowed down and the Gamecocks began pressing. They went nearly nine minutes with just one field goal. Making matters worse, South Carolina missed six free throws during the stretch as well.
Alabama took their first lead, 20-19, as the Gamecocks struggled to keep pace with their opening run. That was until this team's emerging leader made a crucial shot to give South Carolina back the lead. A Michael Carrera three-pointer sparked an 11-2 USC run. Sindarius Thornwell knocked down a three with 37 seconds remaining in the half as a nice cap to a solid half of play.
South Carolina held their largest lead of the night, nine, when the teams returned for halftime. Chris Silva increased it immediately out of the break. The freshman scored to give Carolina their first double-digit lead of the game. Alabama would not go quietly though. Just five minutes later, the Crimson Tide trimmed their deficit to just five.
USC's responses have often been well-timed this season and Saturday was no different. With ‘Bama closing in and the building growing tense, the Gamecocks made the plays they needed to make to put the game away. A Duane Notice trey was the lead-in for a crucial 14-5 run that put South Carolina up 59-45 just four minutes after Alabama cut the Carolina lead down to two possessions.
Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugas Kacinas scored on three-straight possessions down the stretch as a Carrera three-pointer and some Gamecock free throws helped put the game away for good.
Carrera supplied his second consecutive double-double in the win, going for 20 points and 11 rebounds.
With the win, South Carolina matched their SEC win total from last season (6). Their 19 total wins on the year are the most in a season since the Gamecocks won 21 in 2008. USC has won 12 consecutive games inside Colonial Life Arena after Saturday, their longest home win streak since 1997.
They'll travel away from their friendly confines in Columbia for a short trip down south as South Carolina faces Georgia on Tuesday night in Athens.