Gamecocks beat Missouri, continue undefeated SEC start
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASKETBALL
Throughout the season Frank Martin’s pleaded with his team to rebound better and get better defensively. It had been a sore spot over the course of the team’s first 14 games and Sunday, it was one of the biggest reasons why they won.
With Missouri chipping away at a lead that ballooned to 13 in the second half, the Gamecocks used a few clutch defensive rebounds and mini-spurts of offense to solidify a 85-75 win over Missouri.
“This is a good win for us. This is a hard, physical game. We didn’t shoot it real good,” Frank Martin said. “We didn’t rebound on the defensive end but somehow someway with the game in the balance we came up with some hard defensive rebounds; then obviously Felipe and AJ made those two threes that allowed us to take a deep breath. It’s a good win for us.”
The Tigers cut the lead to three twice over the last eight minutes of game time and both times the Gamecocks (8-7, 3-0 SEC) responded with an offensive spurt of their own.
The first run came thanks to Chris Silva and Keyshawn Bryant, starting with a Silva bucket then a Bryant tip-in who followed it up with a transition layup on a nice pass from AJ Lawson to cap a 6-0 run.
Twelve of Bryant’s team-best 15 points came in the second half while Silva finished with 14 points and has scored in double figures for the ninth straight game.
“Chris is playing real well for us right now. He’s really engaged,” Martin said. “We learned to play with him.”
The second run came with three minutes to go after the final of 10 three-pointers from Missouri.
Felipe Haase hit a three pointer and Silva followed it up with a rebound on the defensive end before Lawson hit another three to push the lead to nine and give South Carolina some breathing room.
After that Missouri hit just one of five shots over the final two minutes of the game while Haase finished with a season-high 14 points.
“Felipe can shoot the basketball. Not everyone is JJ Reddick, man where they show up and make 100 threes their freshman year. It takes time. He grew up a lot last year. Physically, he wasn’t ready for the speed of college basketball,” Martin said. “He’s been practicing and playing really well…This year he’s starting to engage his personality in this team.”
Five Gamecocks finished with over 10 points—Bryant with 15, Silva with 14, Lawson added 11, Haase his 14 and Hassani Gravett finished with 12 points, all of which came from the free throw line.
The Gamecocks are now 3-0 to start SEC play for just the third time since joining the league in 1992. It’s the first time they have started this hot since winning five straight to open league play in 2017, the year they went to Final Four.
It’s also the first win streak of at least three games since winning four in a row during that 2017 year.
“We look at it, but we try not to focus on that,” Bryant said. “It’s good to be 3-0 but after every win we’re looking at our next game trying to get another win.”
Player of the game: Haase finished with a season high in points and hit a few clutch shots down the stretch as the Gamecocks held on to win.
Statistical leaders: Bryant, 15 points; Kotsar, 7 rebounds; Lawson, 4 assists
Up next: South Carolina hits the road for it's second SEC road game of the year. They'll play at Vanderbilt Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network.