MBB: South Carolina upsets Mississippi State
SOUTH CAROLINA MEN’S BASKETBALL
The Gamecocks upset #14 Mississippi State in overtime, 87-82, Tuesday night at Colonial Life Arena (CLA).
The much-maligned Maik Kotsar was the unquestioned star. He scored a career-high 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and blocked a potential game-winning shot. Kotsar scored six points in overtime, including a baseline jumper with less than a minute to play to put the Gamecocks up three.
“I’m really proud of Kotsar,” head coach Frank Martin said. “I’ve been fighting him, in a good way, to believe in himself. I’m really happy that he played with that aggression and that confidence.”
Mississippi State still had a chance, but Chris Silva and A.J. Lawson trapped Quinndary Weatherspoon at midcourt, forcing a steal that Lawson turned into a breakaway dunk. Tre Campbell knocked away a pass, and South Carolina dribbled out the clock.
The game's first 10 minutes were an offensive onslaught, with both teams shooting over 60 percent from the floor. Those shooting percentages came back to earth, but the pace - and excitement - remained high.
The game was close throughout, and the teams stayed within single digits of each other the entire time. A three-point play by Kotsar gave South Carolina a 75-73 lead with two minutes to play. Weatherspoon quickly tied the game, and then both teams had opportunities to win in regulation. But Hassani Gravett missed an open three, and Kotsar blocked Weatherspoon’s layup attempt. Silva was stripped going up for a shot, and despite lots of contact, no foul was called. Lamar Peters dribbled out the clock before driving, but his layup was off, and then Gravett had his half-court heave at the buzzer rim around and out.
Kotsar scored his first basket off a nifty pass from Silva, but then missed a couple of shots. He stayed aggressive and had eight points at halftime, a solid outing, but no indication of the second half outburst to come. Kotsar scored the first six points of the second half for the Gamecocks, and from then on, both teams were just living in Kotsar’s world.
“I felt good, I felt really good,” Kotsar said. “I started off missing a few shots, but my teammates were there to pick me up. I got my confidence going and went from there.”
After the game, Kotsar didn’t seem to understand how surprising and impactful his performance was. He said he wasn’t thinking about it being his night. He kept his focus on playing hard on the next play.
“I didn’t even think of that during the game,” he said. “I was just doing what I was doing.”
Gravett added 17 points and seven rebounds in another big game off the bench, and Felipe Haase chipped in 11 points and six rebounds. Silva only had 11 points, but he was constantly double-teamed and contributed across the board. He had 12 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks while playing strong defense.
South Carolina now sits, improbably, tied atop the SEC standings. The overall record is now even at 7-7
Gravett thought his shot attempt at the end of regulation would go in. He made a buzzer-beater at Mississippi State last season. “I thought it looked good,” he said. “I did think it would go in.” … The game was South Carolina’s first win over a ranked opponent since a 84-75 win over #11 Auburn February 17, 2018. … Aric Holman led the Bulldogs with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks, and tied his career-high with five made threes. … Weatherspoon finished with 17. … The Gamecocks attempted 81 shots. The Bulldogs attempted 64. … South Carolina had a 47-40 rebounding edge. Both teams made 13 free throws, but the Bulldogs attempted six more. … Announced attendance was 8,776, but with a 9 pm tip on a Tuesday night, the actual attendance may have been even lower. … South Carolina’s next game is Saturday afternoon at 1 against Missouri at CLA. The Tigers were blown out by Tennessee 87-63 on Tuesday night.