COLUMBIA, S.C. — Despite a late rally, South Carolina (2-5) could not overcome a 14-point deficit and suffered a 76-67 defeat to Providence (6-2) at Colonial Life Arena on Thursday night as a part of the Big East/SEC Challenge. Senior forward Malik Cooke led the Gamecock offense, shooting 8-of-12 from the field and scoring a season-high 21 points. Sophomore guard Eric Smith also added 16 points.
Sophomore forward R.J. Slawson’s eight rebounds paced South Carolina in holding a 40-34 advantage in the rebounding category, and freshman forward Carlton Geathers tied a career-high with three blocks on the night.
The Friars found themselves with a 15-8 lead as the game crossed the 11:00 mark in the first half, but a 3-point basket from Cooke from the top of the key and a tough layup brought the Gamecocks to within two at the halfway point of the first half. Providence would maintain the lead though near the end of the half and went into the break leading the game 34-27.
Carolina would fight back in the second half with a 7-0 run started by a Lakeem Jackson dunk with 11:50 left to play. Cooke would follow with two free throws and sophomore guard Brian Richardson capped off the run with a three-point play to make the game 51-47 Friars with 8:58 left to go.
Providence answered with a pair of free throws by Gerard Coleman and staved off the Gamecock rally to open their lead back up to 10 with five and a half minutes left.
South Carolina staged a late comeback as Cooke hit his third 3 of the night and sophomore Bruce Ellington finished off an acrobatic layup with 3:34 remaining. Cooke would hit another jumper to cut the Friar lead to seven, but Providence would answer with solid free throw shooting to close out the game.
The Gamecocks are back in action on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. as they travel to face in state rival Clemson. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.