Gamecocks pull off massive road win
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASKETBALL
NASHVILLE, TENN.—There was a conversation Hassani Gravett had with AJ Lawson late in South Carolina’s game Wednesday at Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt had just hit a free throw to take a one-point lead with 30 seconds left and the two shared a moment right before Lawson got fouled and hit two free throws that gave the Gamecocks a lead and helped secure a 74-71 win over the Commodores.
“I told AJ I had faith in him. Coming down in transition,” Gravett said. “I told AJ before the play happened he’d get to the line and make the shots. That’s exactly what he did.”
Lawson hit both free throws and Gravett, after Vanderbilt missed the ensuing shot and fouled, hit two more free throws to ice the game to preserve the Gamecocks’ (9-7, 4-0 SEC) five-game win streak and keep them undefeated in SEC play.
In a back-and-forth game that saw the Gamecocks trail by as much as 12 and by double digits the majority of the second half, Gravett ultimately took over down the stretch as the Gamecocks notched another come-from-behind win in conference play.
For Gravett, he finished with 17 points, all of which came in the second half, and had nine points over the final 1:38 of game time. He went 3-for-4 from three.
“In the first half I didn’t make any noise at all,” he said. “I came out in the second half and knew I had to step up and help my team out. I felt comfortable at the line. I don’t know, I just knocked them down.”
Lawson added 24 points, one shy of tying his career high, 13 of those coming in the second half and seven from the free throw line.
They did all of this without any main contribution from Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar, who combined for five points on 0-for-4 shooting. Silva fouled out with less than three minutes to play and Kostar had four fouls, sitting for long stretches of the second half.
After shooting a rough 33.3 percent in the first half the Gamecocks came out and went 12-for-24 from the field after the break and hit 27 free throws.
“We were just missing shots, man,” Gravett said of the team’s first half struggles. “We didn’t guard matchups the way we needed to; we were getting beat off screens, allowing them to get open shots and it was their home court. They were hitting shots. That put us down early but coming out in the second half we came out with a different mindset.”
Down 10 late in the second half, the Gamecocks went on a 12-2 run that was sparked by a Gravett three and capped by a then game-tying trey from Felipe Haase, who finished with nine points.
In a tie game, Keyshawn Bryant had four free throw chances over the course of two possessions but missed all of them. His teammates would come through in the end and Bryant, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds, was commended postgame by his coach.
“I said, ‘stop pouting. You’re the one that made the play to get yourself a chance. Why are you pouting? Without your effort we don’t get those free throws. Just go up to the line and shoot it,”’ Martin said about Bryant’s misses.
The Gamecocks, who struggled earlier in the year when those two didn’t play well, didn’t revert back to their old ways. Instead, they scored 45 second half points as the freshmen played significant minutes down the stretch.
They’re now guaranteed a 4-1 start in SEC play for the third time in the last four years.
“I’ve liked this team from day one. They’ve got a lot of resolve. We didn’t throw the towel in when we lost some games earlier,” Martin said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to win the next six, it just means when the game’s going they’re not throwing the towel in. They’re fun to be around."
Player of game: Hassani Gravett put on a show in the second half to lead his team to a win.
Statistical leaders: AJ Lawson, 24 points; Keyshawn Bryant, six rebounds; Felipe Haase, three assists
Up next: South Carolina stays on the road and travels to LSU for a game Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
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