Dec. 17, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina gave No. 2/2 Ohio State a scare, but the Buckeyes were able to hold on late for a 74-66 win Saturday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena. Ohio State improves to 10-1, and South Carolina falls to 4-6.
Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas posted a career-high 30 points in the absence of Jared Sullinger to lead the Buckeyes to their smallest margin of victory against an unranked opponent. William Buford added 17 points, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. had nine points and nine rebounds for the Buckeyes.
Malik Cooke hit a season-high 21 points and added three assists and two steals for South Carolina. Anthony Gill contributed 11 points and a team-high four rebounds.
Ohio State only got six minutes out of Sullinger, the Preseason Player of the Year who left the court in the first half after injuring his foot. The sophomore had three points, two rebounds and a block before leaving the building on crutches.
The Gamecocks took a 33-29 lead into the half courtesy of Cooke’s 10 points and an all-around effort that saw eight players score in the half. The Buckeyes jumped out to a seven-point lead midway through the opening half before the Gamecocks evened the score at 22 with a 3-pointer by Eric Smith with five minutes remaining in the period.
South Carolina took its first lead at 27-26 when Damien Leonard popped a 3-pointer from the baseline, and the team solidified the halftime advantage with Damontre Harris and Cooke scoring the final four points of the half.
Two minutes into the second half, Cooke left the game with an injury, and the Buckeyes took advantage with a 17-6 run to reclaim the lead and momentum before Cooke returned with 12 minutes to go in the game.
Ohio State pushed its advantage to as many as 13 points in the final five minutes before the Gamecocks fought back in the closing minutes. Trailing 73-66 with 32 seconds remaining, South Carolina had an opportunity to turn it into a two-possession game, but Ohio State forced a turnover and hit a free throw to seal the victory.
South Carolina returns home Wednesday, Dec. 21 to take on Southeastern Louisiana at 7 p.m. That match will be broadcast live on SportsSouth.