USC Holds Off Clemson, 65-59

By USC SID

GREENVILLE, S.C. — It was a game fitting of a historic rivalry, as the Gamecock men’s basketball team held off Clemson (7-4) Friday night in their first true road game of the season, 65-59. The win helped Carolina improve to 10-0, its best start since 1933-34, but it would take all 40 minutes for it to be decided.

Early nerves would lead to a slow start for the rivals, a Clemson 6-0 run helped it take a 10-7 lead six minutes in, with the Gamecocks struggling from the field with a 3-of-11 start.

Carolina got its first two-possession lead on the back of a personal 5-0 run by Mindaugas Kacinas, helping plant the seed for what would become a momentum-changing stretch for the visitors. He broke a 14-all tie with a three-point play, then following with a layup on the next possession to make it a 19-14 game with nine minutes to play in the half after the Tigers had gone up 13-9 just three minutes earlier.

A pair of 3-pointer from Michael Carrera extended the total run out to 16-1, forced a Clemson timeout and got the Gamecock-laden crowd at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in an uproar. In total, the Gamecocks would stretch the run out to 24-1 behind eight-straight made field goals, which compounded the Tiger’s drought of 12-straight misses.

The highlight of the run would undoubtedly be Sindarius Thornwell’s three-point play off a dunk that shook loose the dust from the arena’s rafters. The run would last over eight minutes in total and helped Carolina take a 41-25 lead at halftime.

Clemson would hit just 5-of-18 two-point field goals and were out-scored 18-6 in the paint for the half, and the Gamecocks also enjoyed a ten-rebound advantage through the first 20 minutes. Eric Cobb would play big minutes off the bench with Carrera and Chris Silva in foul trouble early; the freshman led the team with four rebounds in the half.

The Tigers came out with comeback on their mind in the second half, and used a 7-0 run to cut into single digits before a 3-pointer from Duane Notice put the score at 48-36 at the first media timeout. Notice’s 3s would be key for helping Carolina overcome a Clemson zone that was successfully stagnating the offense for the majority of the second half.

Despite relying heavily on 3-pointers to try and cut into the deficit, it would actually be Clemson’s post scorers that made the difference as it continued to claw back into the game. Through the first 14 minutes of the second half, Clemson hit 6-of-8 two-pointers compared to just 4-of-11 on 3s. Baskets on four-straight possessions would get the Tigers within four, 57-53, with six minutes still to play.

Kacinas would snap a three-minute scoring drought for Carolina on a high-low pass from Laimonas Chatkevicius into the heart of the Clemson 2-3 zone, sending the Gamecocks into the final media timeout with a 59-55 lead. That would score held tight for over four minutes, with Carolina still vexed by Clemson’s zone, and the Tigers unable to score against the Gamecock’s physical man-to-man.

Coming down to the final 90 seconds of regulation, it would be the free throw line that the rivalry game would be decided. Each side missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the line, but a turnover off an errant pass forced Clemson to foul and put Carrera at line to try and add critical points to the tenuous lead.

The senior swished both attempts, bringing an end to 4:04 minutes without a point from either team and gave Carolina a 61-55 lead with 22 seconds to play. A forced-up 3 by the Tigers would be rebounded by PJ Dozier, who added two more free throws and iced away the game.

GAMECHANGER

The Carolina defense held Clemson without a single point from the 4:26 mark in the second half until just nine seconds remained. It helped stem the comeback attempt from the Tigers, who had cut the deficit to four, 59-55, before being held scoreless when it mattered most. The defensive stand also helped cover for a Gamecock offense that went without a point in the exact same stretch.

KEY STAT

After starting the second half 10-of-19 from the field in the first 13 minutes, Clemson shot just 4-of 13 for the rest of the game. The Tigers finished the game shooting 36.5 percent (23-of-63), becoming the fourth-straight opponent to shoot under 40 percent against the Gamecocks, sixth overall.

UP NEXT

South Carolina travels to Uncasville, Conn., on Tuesday to face St. John’s in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout. The contest will tip at 9 p.m. ET and will be televised on CBS Sports Network with Dave Ryan (play- by-play), Doug Gottlieb (analyst) and Evan Washburn (sideline) on the call. St. John’s holds a 4-0 record in the all-time series between the two schools.

NOTABLE

  • Michael Carrera led the team with 14 points for the night, his seventh-straight game in double figures, and passed 800 career points in the process.
  • Eric Cobb continued to show his value coming off the bench, adding a career-high five rebounds with four points 11 minutes of playing time.
  • The Gamecocks put four scorers in double figures for the seventh time this season.
Categories: Clemson, Local Sports, South Carolina Sports, Sports, USC Gamecocks