South Carolina edges LSU
ATLANTA - South Carolina head basketball coach Dave Odom will be around for at least one more day.
South Carolina (14-17, 6-11) used decisive runs in the first and second half to pull out to a comfortable margin against the downtrodden LSU Tigers and held on late to pull out the four point victory.
"Going into the last three minutes of play, we had enough cushion to survive," head coach Dave Odom said. "We hit enough free throws to survive, and we stopped them just enough times to survive, and I give our team a lot of credit."
After LSU's Anthony Randolph quickly scored the first points of the game on a putback, the Gamecocks turned to the hot hand of Mike Holmes as they raced to a comfortable lead midway through the first half.
With Holmes a perfect 4-4 from the floor and already at eight points in the half, the Gamecocks were able to hang with LSU (13-18, 6-11) without much difficulty for the first few minutes of the contest, partly due to point guard Devan Downey tying his career high with 11 assists.
"I just tried to find my teammates and contribute in other areas of the game," Downey said. "Once we were able to establish ourselves on defense, the offense came."
After a Terry Martin free throw tied things up at 15 midway through the first, USC used a decisive 12-4 run to race to an eight point lead on back-to-back three pointers by Dwayne Day and two easy baskets inside for sophomore forward Dominique Archie.
The Carolina lead grew to double digits after a monstrous block by freshman Sam Muldrow allowed Archie to race down the court and put back his eighth point of the half.
However, as has been the case for most of the season, the Gamecocks went cold for the last few minutes of the half as two three-pointers by Marcus Thorton and another by Chris Johnson allowed the Tigers to pull with three at the half at 37-34.
The 11-4 run to close out the half continued in the start of the second, as the Gamecocks came out ice cold to start the period.
Mike Holmes started the second half with a jumper on the feed from Devan Downey, giving the freshman his tenth point of the contest, but LSU quickly put together an 8-0 run to give the inspired Tigers the three point edge early in the half.
Had it not been for the torrid play of Archie, who had seven points and five boards in the first ten minutes of the second half, the Gamecocks might have be heading home to Columbia early.
For the game, Archie had 15 points and six rebounds.
The shots finally began to fall for Carolina with ten minutes to go in the contest, as an Evka Banilius three-pointer knotted the game at 52 apiece.
Before the three-pointer, the Lithuania native was 1-6 from the floor.
The teams began to trade the lead for the next several minutes, due in part to USCs ability to make beautiful, clutch shots, including a buzzer-beating shot by Holmes and a rainbow bucket by Downey.
The rainbow by the Chester, SC native started the decisive run for the Gamecocks, as triples by Frederick and Banilius, coupled with a beautiful hook shot by Holmes, allowed Carolina to put together a 19-7 run and a comfortable 12 point advantage.
However, that's when things began to get dicey for Carolina, as LSU finished the game on a 12-5 run, falling by only four points, due in large part to Carolina's inability to make clutch free throws down the stretch.
"Well, in typical fashion we make it interesting at the end," Odom said. "We rarely ever win with ease going away, looking over our shoulder into the sunset. That rarely ever happens. This is usual for us with the exception that we were able to hang on and win the basketball game."
With six seconds on the clock, LSU's Marcus Thorton had a chance at a game-tying triple, but was stripped by Frederick, who connected on one of two foul shots to put the game away.
Carolina next faces top-seed Tennessee tomorrow at one, who they've lost to by a combined 57 points this season.
"(I) go into tomorrow (with) no fear. No trepidation. Nothing," Odom said about tomorrow's contest. "I'm not anxious about it at all. I'm going to enjoy the next 20 hours between now and then. I'm going to enjoy the heck out of it."
- South Carolina snapped a four game losing streak against the Tigers and now is 12-10 all time against LSU.
- Point guard Devan Downey was three rebounds away from his first ever triple double. The sophomore had 12 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds.
- Senior Dwayne Day did not start for South Carolina after starting the last 16 contests.
- USC is now 5-2 against the SEC West this season.
- Dave Odom is now 8-6 all time in the SEC Tournament with South Carolina.
- USC is now 16-15 in the SEC Tournament since joining the Southeastern Conference.
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