On Senior night for the Gamecocks, it was a Junior who stole the show.
Junior guard Brenton Williams poured in an impressive career high 38 point performance in front of the Gamecock faithful for the last time this season. Williams shot a blistering 59% from the field while going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc. Pretty good for a player who averages 10 points a game. Williams is the first Gamecock to reach the 30 point plateau since Bruce Ellington dropped 31 against Wofford in 2010. His 38 points were the most ever scored by any South Carolina player in an SEC game.
Head coach Frank Martin recently spoke of the games that his team had let get away from them this season. One of those games happened to be these two teams previous matchup earlier this year and they were determined to not let this one get away.
The 79-72 win over Mississippi State snaps a 7 game losing streak against the Bulldogs. South Carolina jumped out to a 22 point lead in the second half, but that was when the Bulldogs charge began. Junior guard Jalen Steele led the charge against the Gamecocks before getting injured and not returning, but that was when Craig Sword took over. After scoring only 5 points in the first half, Sword took over when Steele was injured and managed to drop 15 in the second period of play. Mississippi State stormed back to make it 68-63 with just over 2 and a half minutes to play, then Williams came in clutch for the Gamecocks and sank two free throws and the Bulldogs would never come any closer.
Every Senior for the Gamecocks started and registered points on Senior night, including fan favorite Shane Phillips. While only registering 3 minutes of play, Phillips was able to get a two-pointer on his only attempt from the floor. Walk-on Freshman Brian Steele also got the starting nod for the Gamecocks for the second time this season in as many games and registered 6 points for USC.
Senior forward Lakeem Jackson was one point, and two rebounds shy of a double-double while shooting 67% from the field. Bruce Ellington matched Jackson’s 9 points as they were the second leading scorers for South Carolina.
Sword’s 20 points led the Bulldogs while Steele was right behind him with 17 points of his own.
The two teams shot well from the floor as Mississippi State went for 51% shooting and South Carolina went for 46%. The win knocks South Carolina out of last place in the SEC and boosts Carolina’s record to 14-16 and their SEC record to 4-13.
This game is just what the doctor ordered for USC as they have a chance to notch a win this saturday at Vanderbilt and hold a two-game win streak going into Nashville for the conference tournament which begins March 13.
The Gamecocks may not be able to win the tournament and make the big dance, but a good run looks achievable for this team in Frank Martin’s first year. A run would give South Carolina confidence heading into the off-season, and with the recruiting class coming in, things would be looking up for the Gamecocks heading into next year.
Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports