The South Carolina Gamecocks gave fans an early Christmas present on Sunday night, as they knocked off the rival Clemson Tigers 67-54 to end a three-game losing streak in that series and get back in the win column after a rough outing against Houston.
A.J. Lawson was the star of the show in this one, putting up 20 points and making four of his seven 3-point attempts while also grabbing six rebounds and nabbing three steals. Maik Kotsar (11 points) and Jair Bolden (10) also hit double figures for the Gamecocks, with Bolden nailing a crucial 3 late in the game to help preserve the USC lead.
The game got off to a sluggish start offensively for both teams, with the Gamecocks nursing a five or six-point lead for most of the first half until Clemson went on a 7-0 spurt. But then Trae Hannibal put down the hammer, the Gamecocks got another bucket, and USC went to the locker room still clinging to a 28-26 lead.
South Carolina went right back to work in the second half, opening with a 7-0 run of its own and building a lead as large as 12 points while Clemson’s offense continued to sputter. Tevin Mack, the Tigers’ leading scorer who hails from Columbia, put up just three points in 26 minutes as Clemson posted a miserable 28% shooting performance, committed 22 turnovers, and was held without a field goal for the final seven minutes of the game.
The Gamecocks worked Clemson on the boards, grabbing 41 rebounds to the Tigers’ 32, and dominated in the paint offensively as well, putting up 24 points to Clemson’s 10. The free-throw shooting was a little better this time out at 68%, and South Carolina sported a much-improved 44% performance from 3-point range as well.
USC (7-4) returns to action next Sunday with a big test against No. 9 Virginia at 3 p.m.