The South Carolina Gamecocks responded to their first loss of 2019 with what has become a hallmark of their adventures in conference play so far — a thrilling, last-second win, this time an 80-77 victory over 16th-ranked Auburn on Tuesday night in Columbia.
Both the Gamecocks and the Tigers were seeking a return to the win column, with Auburn having lost a heartbreaker to Kentucky and South Carolina...well, the less said about that game at LSU, the better. Each team came out swinging, figuratively and literally, as the fouls piled up quickly in the earlygoings.
The Gamecocks managed to a 10-point lead off the strength of some hot shooting and looked surprisingly in control, but started to finally miss the looks they’d been making and Auburn’s fearsome 3-point shooting asserted itself. The Tigers erased that deficit in just a couple minutes, with standout guard Bryce Brown canning a pair of free throws after a late and silly foul to put Auburn up 38-37 at the half. It was a frustrating ending to what had otherwise been a good period of basketball for USC.
Out of the locker room, the slugfest continued, with both teams trading baskets and unable to get much separation. But the Gamecock offense started to heat up again, with some wild plays signaling that it just might be their night: Chris Silva blew a dunk, only for the ball to nonetheless somehow enter the basket, and Hassani Gravett drained a corner 3 while falling out of bounds with one second left on the shot clock. Sure, we’ll roll with that!
Despite this favor from the basketball gods, Auburn refused to go away, making another 10-point deficit disappear thanks to a 12-0 run and some sloppy play from the Gamecocks that even featured some goaltending. But while Silva’s two free-throws — and clutch rebounding — sealed the win, it was Felipe Haase who turned in some unlikely heroics, as he drained his first and only 3-pointer of the game with 30.3 seconds left to put the Gamecocks up 78-77.
South Carolina earned its second win over a ranked opponent in as many weeks, and continued its stellar star in SEC play.
Silva, who had been quiet in the previous two games before fouling out of both, exploded back onto the scene in a big way, scoring a career-high 32 points and grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds. It was exactly the type of dominant performance South Carolina needed from him to spring the upset, as he made 11 of 12 field goals and went 10 of 11 from the foul line. It goes without saying that the Gamecocks are a completely different team when he’s on the floor and not saddled with foul trouble on the bench.
Gravett was the only Gamecock to join Silva in double figures, with 13 points and a 50 percent mark from 3. Haase and Maik Kotsar, who had been hobbled with a bum ankle but made some key plays, each finished with nine points. Compared to his recent efforts, Keyshawn Bryant had a quiet game with just six points, but he did produce arguably the most exciting highlight:
Keyshawn Bryant with AUTHORITY! pic.twitter.com/kkDLCwDKXX— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 23, 2019
Up next, South Carolina (10-8, 5-1 SEC) travels to Oklahoma State on Saturday as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.