CLEMSON - On the afternoon that the Clemson football team was honored as ACC Champions in football, South Carolina (3-5) continued their dominance over the Tigers in all sports. The Gamecocks defeated Clemson last season and made it two in a row as they knocked of the Tigers 58-55 behind key plays from freshman Anthony Gill and sophomore Bruce Ellington down the stretch.
Freshman Anthony Gill
South Carolina defeated Clemson for the second consecutive season as Damontre Harris and Anthony Gill scored 10 points apiece. Ellington and Brian Richardson chipped in nine points including several clutch plays down the stretch.
The win was important for the Gamecocks as they had lost three straight and, with a week off for final exams, needed some positive momentum.
“There are a lot of positives we can take from this game,” head coach Darrin Horn said. “We’re going to have to win games like this on the road to be a good basketball team. We need to be able to fight and scrap like we did today to get a win.”
The story of the first half was the ability of the Tigers to get the ball inside to their big guys and either make the shot or draw the foul. Clemson shot nine free throws in the game’s first 20 minutes making six of them. South Carolina on the other hand did not attempt a single free throw as they only drew six fouls on the Tigers.
The easy looks at the basket allowed the Tigers to make 46 percent of their shots while taking a 35-28 lead. It was not as if the Gamecocks were struggling from the field as they connected on 12-of-26 shots and made four of their 10 attempts from three point range.
Clemson center Catalin Baciu would fuel the Tigers early with his play on the interior. The 7-foot-2 big man contributed eight points as he constantly got inside position against Gamecock defenders to either finish an easy layup or draw a foul. Senior guards Tanner Smith and Andre Young also provided the first half scoring for the Tigers with eight points apiece.
South Carolina guard Brian Richardson kept the Gamecocks in the game with eight points of his own that included making both of his three point shots. Carolina had been a slow starting team but made 46 percent of their shots by emphasizing getting the ball into the post as they scored 16 of their 28 points in the paint.
Following the solid offensive showing in the first half, both teams would regress to start the second half. Carolina and Clemson combined to make just 5-of-21 shots over the first nine minutes. The Gamecock defense would do their work in the second half holding the Tigers to just 29 percent shooting in the second half as they made seven of their 24 shot attempts. The Gamecocks were slightly better finishing nine of 24 however took 17 free throws in the half making 11 of them.
South Carolina struggled all half to tie the game, three times cutting the lead to just two points. With 4:31 remaining Harris would get an offensive rebound and put back to knot the game at 47. Following a shot clock violation by Clemson, Gill would make a short jumper over Milton Jennings to give the Gamecocks their first lead of the second half.
Most of Sunday afternoon’s battle was a defensive contest but the final minute featured both teams making clutch shots to keep their team in the ball game. The key was the Gamecocks making just a few more to please their head coach.
“We made a lot of good plays in the last 10 minutes alone,” he said. “I’m really proud of these guys’ effort tonight and the way that we fought. It was a total team effort.
Gill would get the string going by knocking down a three pointer out of the timeout with a minute 1:18 left to give the Gamecocks a three point lead. Clemson would answer with Devin Booker making two free throws with 58 seconds left to trim lead to one.
“We wanted Anthony to take that shot,” he said. “If you noticed, we called his number a lot tonight. He showed a lot more assertiveness today, which is what we wanted. We talked to all our guys about what they needed to do to make our team better, and Anthony’s was to be assertive and aggressive.”
South Carolina would answer with the shot clock running down on their possession as Ellington drove into the lane and found Eric Smith for a jumper with 27 seconds left to push the lead back to three. Rod Hall would score a quick basket to cut the lead back to one but Ellington would again take care of the situation stepping to the line and sinking two free throws.
Clemson would get one last chance to tie the game as Tanner Smith was fouled with 7.5 seconds remaining on a three point attempt. Smith would make two of his three free throws to cut the lead one and force the Tigers to foul one more time. Malik Cooke would make two free throws to push the lead back to three and a desperation three pointer by Young would come up just short.
“I think we all got what you’d expect from a rivalry game today,” Horn said. “We played extremely hard, both teams made a lot of big shots down the stretch. I think we showed today we have some bite in us. When everybody does what they are capable of, we have the ability to be a good team.”
The win over the Tigers was the second straight for the Gamecocks after losing six straight. Tiger head coach Brad Brownell fell to 0-2 against the Gamecocks while Horn improved to 2-2 overall. South Carolina will now take a week off for fall exams before returning to the court December 13 for a game against Presbyterian College at Colonial Life Arena.