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Lawson helps power Gamecocks past UMass, 84-80

A little close for comfort, but still a W.

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks captured their first road win of the season on Wednesday in another tightly contested battle against UMass, this time outlasting the Minutemen 84-80.

A.J. Lawson had an impressive evening, leading all scorers with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, while Jermaine Couisnard wasn’t far behind with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Keyshawn Bryant, making his debut after an offseason knee surgery, rounded out the double-figure scoring for the Gamecocks, putting up 13 points off the bench in a solid return performance.

Justin Minaya and Maik Kotsar added nine points each, with Kotsar handing out a team-high five assists and also nabbing a team-high three steals.

The game got off to a rocky start, with UMass building as large as a nine-point lead in the first half, but South Carolina shook off the slow start to bring a 39-35 advantage into the locker room. The struggles continued in the second half, though, as the Gamecocks saw an 11-point lead evaporate with a late 13-4 Minutemen run, capped by a 3-pointer, that brought the game within two points. Fortunately, Lawson nailed a pair of free throws to give the Gamecocks breathing room and provide the final margin.

South Carolina shot 55% from the field, but had another rough 3-point performance (20%) and continues to turn in up-and-down showings from the free-throw line (62%). On the bright side, the Gamecocks out-rebounded the Minutemen 31-29 and dominated them in the lane offensively, putting up 52 points in the paint, and scored 20 points off turnovers to UMass’s 11.

The Gamecocks (6-3) return to Columbia to face Houston (4-2) at noon on Sunday.