The University of South Carolina men’s basketball team is continuing its impressive rebound …
After a disastrous start to the 2018-2019 season, seventh-year head coach Frank Martin’s squad has now reeled off five consecutive wins – including four straight victories to open Southeastern Conference (SEC) play. The Gamecocks (9-7, 4-0 SEC) are finally looking like the team many projected as being on the “bubble” for a bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Of course they have a long way to go – and a tough row to hoe – before any serious “bubble” talk can ramp up again.
But for now, momentum is clearly building for a program that appeared on the brink of a spectacular implosion just a few short weeks ago.
The latest big win? A come-from-behind road victory over SEC East rival Vanderbilt in Nashville on Wednesday evening.
Despite trailing by 12 points midway through the second half (and by five points with less than two minutes on the clock), the Gamecocks eked out a win over the Commodores (9-7, 0-4 SEC) – with senior guard Hassani Gravett scoring nine of his team’s final eleven points to seal the victory.
Gravett finished with seventeen points – each one scored during an action-packed second stanza that saw the Gamecocks hit their final twelve free throws en route to completing the comeback. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound redshirt senior hit the last two free throws of the game with two seconds on the clock – nailing down the win just three seconds after Vanderbilt guard Saben Lee missed a fifteen foot jumper that would have given his team the lead.
Lee also committed a costly technical foul after blocking a Gravett jump shot – one that allowed South Carolina to tie the game with under a minute-and-a-half remaining on the clock.
True freshman A.J. Lawson led the Gamecocks with 24 points – including a clutch pair of free throws with 23 seconds left in the game. The 6-foot-6, 188-pound Toronto native – who has led South Carolina in scoring all year – missed his career high by just one point.
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Preseason all-SEC performer Chris Silva scored just two points in the game – his lowest offensive output of the season – although the senior from Libreville, Gabon played only thirteen minutes after once again landing in foul trouble (a recurring theme throughout this season).
Luckily for Martin’s squad, freshman forward Keyshawn Bryant filled in nicely for Silva – scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds against the Commodores.
Silva must be more disciplined if the Gamecocks expect their recent momentum to carry over into the brutal heart of their conference schedule, which includes multiple matchups against ranked teams.
The Gamecocks have upcoming contests against No. 14 Auburn (on the road), No. 3 Tennessee (at home and on the road), No. 12 Kentucky (on the road), No. 18 Mississippi (at home) and a rematch on the road against No. 24 Mississippi State, a team which will be eager to avenge the overtime loss it suffered Columbia, S.C. earlier this month.
That is the definition of tough sledding, people …
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