CLEMSON — South Carolina used a little bit of everything in its arsenal to rally past Clemson, 58-55, on Sunday the Gamecocks second consecutive win against the Tigers.
USC freshman forward Anthony Gill put the Gamecocks ahead twice late in the game, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 79 seconds remaining that gave South Carolina (3-5) the lead for good.
Sophomore point guard Bruce Ellington, who caught a touchdown pass in the football teams victory against Clemson last week, drove between two defenders and dished to Eric Smith who hit a jumper with 26 seconds left to keep Clemson (4-3) at bay. Ellington followed with two free throws 13 seconds later.
Then Malik Cooke, the teams only senior, sealed the win with two more free throws despite the frenzied jeers from the Littlejohn Coliseum crowd, which earlier cheered an appearance from Clemsons ACC championship football team at halftime.
When this team gets everybody doing what theyre capable of doing, weve got a chance to be a good basketball team and find a way to win some games, USC coach Darrin Horn said. Were going to take some lumps because were young. But at the same time, I think tonight we showed we got some fight in us.
Similar to the USC football teams victory, defense was a difference maker Sunday. The Tigers scored 20 points in the second half, shot 29 percent and missed all seven of their 3-point attempts. The Tigers shot 46 percent in the first half to take a seven-point lead.
Clemson point guard Andre Young, who hit five 3-pointers in Tuesdays win against Iowa, missed all five of his long-range attempts in the second half including a last-second heave from half-court.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell said it was demoralizing how Clemson could not finish around the basket. We defended well, but we have to find a way to scrap together a few more points, he said.
Sundays win was the Gamecocks first at Littlejohn since 2003. USC had lost three straight games before traveling to Clemson and was off to the schools worst start in decades.
We have been through a lot, and we have learned from our mistakes, Cooke said.
The first half presented problems for USC. The Gamecocks did not get to the foul line as Clemson was called for two fouls in the first half. South Carolina became more aggressive in the second half, taking the ball to the basket as Clemson was called for 13 second-half fouls. USC shot 17 second-half free throws.
Still both teams stumbled through the first 14 minutes of the second half, and Clemson led by six points. The Gamecocks pulled to within two points on three occasions before tying the game with 4:31 to go on Damontre Harriss put-back. The Gamecocks briefly took the lead a minute later on a Gill jumper.
Clemson tied the game again on Devin Bookers layup before Gills 3-pointer, and Smiths jumper.
Clemson had a chance to tie the game when Tanner Smith was fouled behind the 3-point arc with 7.5 seconds to go. But Smith missed one of his three shots, and Malik Cooke was fouled on the in-bounds pass and sank the clinching free throws.
I dont think were going to be super pretty all year long, Horn said. I think well get a little prettier. But we need to fight and scrap and claw to win.
Percentages: FG .420, FT .647. 3-Point Goals: 5-15, .333 (Gill 2-3, Richardson 2-3, Ellington 1-4, Leonard 0-1, Jackson 0-1, Smith 0-1, Cooke 0-2). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 5 (Harris 5). Turnovers: 8 (Ellington 2, Jackson 2, Harris, Cooke, Smith). Steals: 6 (Cooke 4, Harris, Ellington).
Percentages: FG .380, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Smith 2-5, Young 2-9, Hall 1-1, Sapp 0-1, Jennings 0-1, Narcisse 0-1). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 1 (Baciu). Turnovers: 11 (Jennings 5, Narcisse 2, Booker 2, Sapp). Steals: 3 (Smith, Sapp, Booker). Att.7,238. OfficialsRoger Ayers, Tony Greene, Gary Maxwell.