Mizzou hangs with No. 19 South Carolina but comes up short, 81-72
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- That No. 18 South Carolina's 81-72 win over Missouri was ugly hardly bothered Gamecocks coach Frank Martin.
South Carolina (16-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) missed shots, but it hit the boards and shook off any bad feelings from its first loss of the year, a surprising 21-point drubbing at Alabama.
"It wasn't about making shots. It was about playing our kind of basketball. We weren't great, but I thought we played more to who we are," Martin said.
South Carolina outrebounded Missouri 41-26 and had 17 offensive rebounds to five for the Tigers. The Gamecocks made three of 21 3-point attempts.
But while they never trailed, the Gamecocks also never could put the overmatched Tigers (8-9, 1-3) away, either.
Missouri was playing its first game since banning itself from the SEC tournament and any other postseason appearances for NCAA violations. And the Tigers started the game without much fire, turning the ball over five times and missing two shots -- including a 3-point attempt that wedged in the side of the rim -- in their first seven possessions.
South Carolina went up 8-0, but never pushed the lead over 13 points the rest of the way.
"Some of the shots they made were tough, deep shots. Once they started making shots, their confidence would build," said Sindarius Thornwell, who led the Gamecocks with 22 points.
Mindaugas Kacinas added 14 points for South Carolina, while freshman PJ Dozier had 11.
Wes Clark led Missouri with a career-best 26 points and had eight assists, accounting for almost two-thirds of Missouri's 28 baskets. He was 10 of 16 from the field and had six rebounds.
South Carolina looked lethargic at times. There wasn't much movement to the offense, and the Gamecocks turned the ball over 13 times.
The defense struggled, too. Missouri shot 49.1 percent in the first half and Ryan Rosburg had 12 points, hitting all six of his shots.
"We've been down like that before, and it has gone the other way. Maybe we are learning something," Missouri coach Kim Anderson said.
But it wasn't enough for the Tigers to win their first road game for Anderson in his second season. Missouri's last win on the road came 21 games ago at Arkansas in January 2014.
"Someday we will win one," Anderson said. "It will be big news."
Missouri: The Tigers shot 36.8 percent from 3-point range. They came into the game shooting 32 percent from behind the arc. ... Missouri's leading scorer and rebounder, Kevin Puryear, had two points and one rebound in 12 minutes as he struggled with foul trouble.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks shot 66.7 percent (22 of 33) from the free throw line. Missouri made nine of 13 free throws. ... South Carolina won three of its first four SEC games for the first time since 2011. ... The team honored Thornwell before the game for being the 42nd Gamecock to score 1,000 points in his career.
Clark's last trip to South Carolina ended horrifically, when Michael Carrera landed on his arm in a scramble, leaving his elbow turned at a grotesque angle.
"There was a little nervousness. But as time went on, I got to playing and I didn't think about it," the junior said.
Martin noted Clark's amazing game Saturday and the 11 points he scored against the Gamecocks before the injury last year.
"I tell you what -- he loves kicking our tails," Martin said.
New South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp appeared at halftime, introducing his assistants. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott got the biggest cheer. Elliott was the interim coach last season after Steve Spurrier stepped down and went 1-5 in the role. He was the only assistant Muschamp retained.
Muschamp didn't say much, but ended with a promise.
"I can only guarantee you one thing: We're not going to get outworked," Muschamp said.
Missouri hosts Georgia on Wednesday.
South Carolina is at Mississippi on Tuesday.