Despite a 9-0 run late in the contest, South
Carolina (7-8, 0-2 SEC) could not overcome a 14-point LSU (10-4, 1-1 SEC) lead
in the second half, falling to the Tigers 71-68 in the SEC home opener at
Colonial Life Arena. Freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers with a
season high 25 points in the game.
The Gamecocks were plagued by turnovers for the second-straight game, committing 19 in the contest, including 11 in the first half. South Carolina also suffered a lengthy drought without a basket in the second half, going over eight minutes without a made basket, its only scoring coming from 11 points at the foul line.
Neither team shot well, with the Gamecocks hitting 41.7 percent (20-48) from the field, and LSU just 39.3 percent (22-56). Both teams left points at the foul line as well, as South Carolina went 24-of-34 from the line, and the Tigers 22-of-35.
Rookie guard Duane Notice and freshman forward Demetrius Henry were both called for two early fouls before the 17-minute mark of the opening half.
A jumper from Laimonas Chatkevicius with 12:40 showing on the clock on an assist from junior guard Tyrone Johnson gave Carolina its first lead of the game at 11-9.
Neither team could find the basket through the midway part of the half, with the Gamecocks hitting just their first six attempts and LSU four of its first 16. Carolina held a 15-14 upperhand with 8:40 remaining.
Thornwell scored his 11th point of the first half near the seven-minute mark and the contest went into the under-eight minute media timeout knotted at 17.
Back-to-back jumpers from LSU's Jordan Mickey tied the contest at 23 with under four minutes to play, but senior guard Brenton Williams scored his first points of the half on the next Gamecock possession.
LSU opened up a seven-point lead after a pair of free throws from Andre Stringer with just over two minutes remaining in the half. Johnson scored two from the free throw line and hit a well-executed 3 out of a Gamecock timeout with under a minute to play, and Carolina trailed by just two at 32-30 at the half.
South Carolina opened the contest hitting 6-of-16, but closed the half hitting five of its final 10 attempts. LSU hit 10-of-30 in the opening set, and was 10-of-15 from the foul line, compared to a 6-of-6 effort from Carolina at the line.
LSU held a 40-36 advantage with 15:44 remaining in the game, at the under-16 minute media timeout, but sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas connected for two at the free throw line following the break and the Gamecocks trailed by just two.
Kacinas and Thornwell both missed attempts at the foul line near the 13-minute mark, but a tip in from Thornwell kept the Tiger lead at two with 13:17 to play.
The contest was fast-paced with both teams playing aggressive on both ends of the court. The teams traded baskets through the middle portion of the half, but the Tigers maintained a two-point lead at 44-42 with 11:20 to play.
Mickey and junior forward Johnny O'Bryant III hit consecutive jumpers following a missed free throw from Williams, forcing Gamecock head coach Frank Martin to call a timeout trailing 52-45 with 9:16 to play.
Stringer hit a 3 from the corner with 8:16 to play to push the LSU lead to eight at 55-47, and a 3 from Tim Quarterman saw the Tiger lead advance to 12 at 60-48 just two minutes later.
South Carolina failed to score a basket from the 10:46 mark through the under-four minute media timeout of the half. The drought saw LSU hold a 64-52 advantage with 3:55 to play.
South Carolina continued to battle. A steal from Johnson with 2:24 to play led to a dunk from Thornwell, Carolina's first basket since the 10:46 mark. Thornwell was fouled on the make, but missed the free throw and was called for a foul battling for the rebound.
LSU missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity and Thornwell scored on the transition to pull the Gamecocks within five at 64-59 with 2:11 to play. The Gamecocks utilized their final timeout of the contest following the basket.
The Tigers called timeout with 1:47 to play holding the five-point lead and LSU was unable to convert at the basket, with possession going to Carolina. Johnson had an attempt, but LSU took over possession on the rebound.
LSU's Anthony Hickey converted for two at the foul line for the Tigers, but Williams responded with his first 3 of the contest to cut the lead to four at 66-62 with 54 seconds to play. On LSU's ensuing possession, Carolina was called for an intentional foul, which gave O'Bryant two attempts from the foul line and possession. O'Bryant would hit one at the line to push the lead back to five points.
O'Bryant would add three more from the foul line to push the lead to 69-62 with 41 seconds to play. Johnson would hit a lay-up seconds later, and LSU would lose possession on the inbound pass. Johnson was fouled on another attempt in the lane and would hit one from the line for a 69-65 Tiger lead.
LSU's Malik Morgan would add two free throws down the stretch and the Tigers would hold on for the 71-68 win despite a 3 from Williams at the buzzer.
LSU out-rebounded the Gamecocks 42-32 in the contest and recorded 14 steals in the game, the most by a Carolina opponent this season. Johnson posted 15 points for the Gamecocks off the bench and Williams added 11 for his seventh-straight double-figure scoring game.
South Carolina continues SEC play when it travels to Texas A&M on Wednesday. Game time is set for 8 p.m. ET on SEC TV.
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