Carolina surprises Arkansas 66-60

A funny thing happened on the Gamecock's death march through the SEC Wednesday night. Buoyed by a narrow road loss at Tennessee, Carolina returned home and surprised the Arkansas Razorbacks, 66-60.

The Razorbacks entered the game fresh off a 20 point thrashing of #16 LSU in Fayetteville. However, Arkansas is a different team on the road. The Razorbacks entered 0-4 in road games, and dropped to 0-5 with the loss. This was part of a trend in the SEC West, where none of the six teams has notched a road win in conference play, going a combined to go 0-16.

During the losing streak, the Gamecocks developed a habit of falling behind early. Even against Tennessee, Carolina struggled early on before clawing back into the game. Against the Razorbacks behind a stifling defense, the Gamecocks started strong. The offense was not clicking at first, but by holding the Razorbacks scoreless for five minutes, Carolina staked out a 12-5 lead.

Arkansas surged back, going on a 16-4 run to take a 21-16 lead. The game appeared to be slipping away from the Gamecocks, especially when Tre Kelley, who finished with 22 points, limped to the locker room with 9:17 left in the half. "Tre scared me," Odom said. "He went out and needed to go to the locker room." When asked what sort of treatment Kelley required, Odom replied, "I don't know a better description than ‘adjust his knee.' He went in there and had the trainer put things back where they're supposed to be."

Though the Gamecocks played much better when Kelley reentered the game, it was not until Dave Odom brought in Dwayne Day that Carolina made a run. Day scored consecutive fast break lay-ups, the first off his own steal and then a Kelley steal to put Carolina up 35-30 at halftime. "I was very pleased with the first half except for the turnovers," Odom explained. Arkansas coach Stan Heath was also unhappy about the Razorbacks' turnovers. "We were sloppy with the basketball in the first half, and that hurt us."

Cast in the unfamiliar position of trying to hold a lead, the Gamecocks started the second half with a 5-1 run to stretch the lead to 40-31. Arkansas roared back behind Sonny Weems and Darian Townes, going on a 22-11 run to take the lead, 53-51. With 3:13 to play, the game was tied at 56. Dominique Archie missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the offensive rebound was tipped to Bryce Sheldon who missed a jumper. Brandon Wallace, who had 13 rebounds including a career high 10 on the offensive glass, then tapped the loose ball off the glass, and Baniulis soared in from the opposite side for the put back.

When asked about the shot, Baniulis smiled and said, "It was just luck." Kelley thought it was more than luck. "That was just the smartness of a guy who has been playing a lot of basketball. He does that a lot; he tips it out to a guy for a shot."

The score gave the Gamecocks a lead they would never relinquish, as they held Arkansas scoreless for more than five minutes. By the time the Razorbacks finally scored, the game was no longer in doubt.

Despite finally breaking out of a losing streak that seemed like it would never end, the Gamecocks were in no mood to celebrate. "It was not a party atmosphere," Odom said. "I think there was a sense of relief. I don't think it was a sense of relief that ‘Now it's over.' It was a relief that ‘We've won our first one.' It was a great win for us. We beat a quality team." However, Baniulis was a little more excited, "This is my first SEC win, so I'm real happy about it."

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