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March 11, 2004

Box Score | Photo Gallery

AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA – South Carolina stopped its brief losing streak, thanks mostly to Mike Boynton.

The lefty guard scored a career-high 32 points – including five 3-pointers – and the Gamecocks might have solidified their postseason plans by beating Arkansas 91-81 Thursday in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

The Gamecocks play LSU in the second round Friday.

Boynton’s previous best was 21 earlier this season against South Carolina State. In this one, he made 17-of-19 free throws, and the Gamecocks were 39-of-50 as a team.

Josh Gonner had 18 points and Terence Kinsey added 14 and a career-high 11 rebounds for South Carolina (22-9), which lost its final two games of the regular season and four of its last five. The run put the Gamecocks squarely on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid, and it started with a 16-point loss to Arkansas.

But they made sure that didn’t happen again. They took the lead for good barely three minutes into the game on a 3 by Gonner and Boynton added two more to start a 17-2 run.

The Razorbacks (12-16) never got closer than eight the rest of the way. Michael Jones finished with 15 and Jonathon Modica had 14 for Arkansas, which lost eight of its last nine to complete its second straight losing season under coach Stan Heath and third in a row overall.

Before that, the Razorbacks had one losing season in 27 years.

A 3-pointer by Jones brought them within 13 with 8:36 left in the game, but Kinsey responded with a three-point play on a putback. The 6-foot-6 guard followed up his 10-point effort in the previous game against Tennessee – his first one in double figures since Jan. 17 – and hit his first 3 in four games to help stop a brief Arkansas rally early in the second half.

The Razorbacks closed to 39-22 with two consecutive baskets after the break, forcing a timeout by South Carolina coach Dave Odom. He drew up a play in the huddle that his team ran perfectly, with Kinsey using a solid screen by Carlos Powell and swishing a jumper from beyond the arc.

On the next possession for the Gamecocks, Kinsey twice kept it alive with offensive rebounds.

Later, another 3-pointer by Boynton and a free throw by Kerbrell Brown – his only point of the game – pushed the lead to 24, and South Carolina cruised from there.

Arkansas didn’t help by missing three straight shots and making three turnovers.