OXFORD, Miss. (AP) – South Carolina entered its game against Mississippi with one of the top defenses in the Southeastern Conference.
That did not stop Justin Reed.
Reed scored a career-high 32 points and had 11 rebounds to give Ole Miss a 79-68 win over the No. 24 Gamecocks.
Reed was 10-of-19 from the field and 11-of-11 from the free-throw line for the Rebels (11-7, 3-4 SEC), who are unbeaten in seven home meetings with South Carolina.
“Justin Reed made us pay inside, he made us pay at the free-throw line and in general, he just had his way,” South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. “He was a key factor in everything they did.”
The senior forward added two assists, a steal and consistently brought the ball up the floor against full-court pressure from the Gamecocks.
“Justin is a great player,” Mississippi coach Rod Barnes said. “He has the maturity and ability to handle the press and then he can go post up down low or shoot the jumper. He helps you so much.”
Aaron Harper added 13 second-half points for Ole Miss.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Gamecocks (18-3, 5-2). Josh Gonner led them with 20 points.
South Carolina played without top reserve Renaldo Balkman, who was suspended for the game for his role in a fight with Vanderbilt’s Corey Smith last Wednesday. Carlos Powell added 14 points, Tre Kelly had 11 and Rolondo Howell had 10 for South Carolina.
“This was a statement game for us,” Reed said. “I thought we weren’t focused early. South Carolina can do that to you with their defense. I raised my intensity level and the rest of the team was able to feed off of it.”
It was a season-worst defensive performance for the Gamecocks, who compounded the problem by going more than seven minutes without a field goal in the second half.
The Rebels scored a season-high 79 points and shot a season-high 46.2 percent, 26-of-56 from the field. Ole Miss also outrebounded the Gamecocks 37-28.
“Our defense gave up high percentage shots and Ole Miss took advantage of that,” Odom said. “Now, it’s far more important to see how we react to this loss. We are not where we want to be, but we still have the opportunity to get there.”
South Carolina led by as many as seven points in the opening minutes. Ole Miss took charge in the second half with a 7-0 spurt in the opening 90 seconds.
The Gamecocks managed to tie the game at 44 with 13:51 left on two free throws by Kelly. The Rebels answered with a decisive 12-3 run. Five different Rebels scored in the surge, capped by two free throws from Harper for a 56-47 lead with 7:58 left.
The Gamecocks never got closer than six points again.
“In the last four games, our guys have been giving it their all,” Barnes said. “At the beginning of the season, even when we were 0-3 in the SEC, I felt this could be a good team as the year went on. It’s nice to see this happening and making strides toward being the team we can be.”