Why win easy when you can fall into double-digit holes and then Houdini yourself out of it?
The South Carolina Gamecocks pulled yet another entertaining encore of their come-from-behind theatrics on Tuesday, snagging a 79-64 win against Mississippi and securing fourth place in the SEC standings to continue what has been a miraculous turnaround since conference play began.
As usual, things got off to unenviable start for South Carolina, with the Gamecocks quickly down 13-2 before the game was even five minutes old. But Chris Silva started to heat up for USC, ultimately keying a 16-0 run that ended with the Gamecocks taking a 40-32 lead into halftime. It also featured yet another incredible A.J. Lawson highlight, possibly his play of the year:
While USC righted the ship before the buzzer, some sloppy play near the end of the period let the Rebels narrow an 11-point deficit into single digits, and one got the sense this thing wasn’t over.
Fortunately, although Ole Miss kept fighting and tied the score once — and threatened to lead several times throughout the second half — South Carolina never trailed. Hassani Gravett, continuing his role as Mr. Clutch, made a few dagger 3-pointers late, and Keyshawn Bryant, of all players, had some key free throws as well to keep the Rebels at bay.
Speaking of, performance from the foul line was the biggest negative in this one: South Carolina was 16 of 27, with several of those misses looming large when Ole Miss was within just a point or two for stretches of the second half. But it’s hard to complain too much when the 3-point shooting (9 of 19 for 47 percent) was once again sizzling, and the Gamecocks won the rebounding battle 46-38.
Silva led USC with 18 points, while Lawson and Gravett added 15 (the latter draining four 3-pointers) and Bryant posted 10. While Felipe Haase and Alanzo Frink didn’t stuff the stat sheet (five and six points, respectively), the big men had some huge baskets in relief of Silva that helped keep the momentum going for USC.
South Carolina now finds itself in the bizarre position of playing like a team worthy of some NCAA Tournament chatter, given its strong SEC showing, but also having the albatross of an atrocious out-of-conference effort on its resume. By no means I am expecting USC to start entering the bubble conversation, but if the Gamecocks keeps winning and some other teams fall off, well...we’ll see.
South Carolina (14-12, 9-4 SEC) hits the road to Mississippi State on Saturday.