Freshman duo leads S Carolina to 77-65 win over Arkansas
That connection helped the Gamecocks (12-11, 7-3 Southeastern Conference) overcome a 13-point second half deficit and beat Arkansas 77-65 on Saturday.
The Gamecocks remain the SEC’s biggest surprise in fourth place after going 5-8 in nonconference play.
Lawson and Bryant scored 31 of South Carolina’s 46 second-half points. Lawson started things with back-to-back 3-pointers after Arkansas went up 50-37 with 15:30 to go.
Bryant then added some slashing drives. And when Lawson found Bryant soaring for an alley-oop, the Gamecocks were up 59-54 with 8:45 left and Colonial Life Arena was as loud as it has been this season.
“When he started doing something, I started doing something,” Bryant said.
Arkansas (14-9, 5-5) had one last run, taking a 61-59 lead with six minutes left. But Lawson, Bryant and senior Chris Silva helped South Carolina end the game on an 18-4 run. The Gamecocks made 16 of their last 22 shots.
“They did a good job of attacking us,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “And we had a few guys who were spent.”
With Jones’ early 3-pointer, Arkansas has hit a 3-pointer in each of its last 1,000 games, the fifth-longest streak in the country. UNLV is tops at 1,067 games.
Arkansas forced 21 turnovers and had 13 steals but South Carolina neutralized its poor ball-handling by making 10 of 15 3-pointers.
Lawson and Bryant were like freshmen in one way. Lawson turned the ball over four times and Bryant had five turnovers.
“We didn’t hold our head down about the turnovers. It happens,” Bryant said.
South Carolina’s season high is 22 turnovers against Florida. The Gamecocks won that one, too.
Daniel Gafford, the SEC’s fifth-leading scorer at 16.9 points a game, had just a season-low eight points Saturday.
Gafford got into foul trouble in the first half, playing less than five minutes. But in his 17 second-half minutes he had just four points.
“I don’t think he ever got in rhythm,” Anderson said.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks started the day ranked No. 60 in the NCAA’s new NET rankings, which is replacing the RPI as a tool to choose at-large NCAA Tournament teams. This loss will drop them. Arkansas is out of most projected brackets, but usually land near the bubble in either the first four or next four out. The Razorbacks’ best nonconference win was a home victory over Indiana.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are trying hard to make an intriguing at-large NCAA Tournament case. A 5-8 nonconference record usually is a killer, but the Gamecocks are fourth in the SEC and if they can get through the rest of the league season with only one or two more losses should at least be discussed as a bubble team. The NCAA’s new NET rankings don’t like them. They are 111th, their best nonconference win is over 153rd ranked Coastal Carolina and they are 0-3 against the three best SEC teams — LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee. South Carolina’s best bet might be to stay in the SEC’s top four and get a double bye in the league tournament so only three wins are needed for the automatic NCAA bid.
South Carolina sophomore forward Justin Minaya won’t play the rest of the season.
Coach Frank Martin said Minaya will use a medical redshirt after hurting his right knee in practice on Nov. 25. He had been trying to get back on the court.
Minaya averaged 7.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in the five games he played this season.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks head to Missouri on Tuesday
South Carolina: The Gamecocks get a shot at the biggest win they can get as they play Wednesday at No. 1 Tennessee