Jan. 30, 2016
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The RV/22 South Carolina men’s basketball team earned a hard-fought win over Alabama (11-9, 2-6 SEC) Saturday night, winning 78-64. Michael Carrera’s second-straight game with a double-double led the way, with Sindarius Thornwell and Chris Silva joining him in double figures. Now at 19-2, 6-2 in conference play, the Gamecocks have their highest win total for a season in seven years.
The upswell of emotion from the sold-out Colonial Life Arena personified the Gamecocks’ energy from the opening tip. The Garnet and Black were flying around on both ends of the court, and built a 12-5 lead early behind a 5-of-7 start from the field in the first three minutes. A pair of Alabama turnovers fed into the opening salvo, the first led to a 3 in the corner from Mindaugas Kacinas and the second would be a picked-off inbounds pass from Kacinas that scored a layup and a foul.
The Tide were able to slow down the pace and erased the early advantage. The Gamecocks were finding looks from the field, but made just one field goal in an eight-minute stretch and missed six free throws in that same span. Alabama would tie things up at 15-all with 13 minutes still to play, and after a grinding five-minute stretch after that it would takes first lead at 20-19.
The visitor’s lead would last just 19 seconds thanks to an immediate answer from Michael Carrera. A 3 from the senior sparked an 11-2 Gamecocks run that put them back ahead 30-22 heading into the final four minutes of the period. A 3 off a bank shot from Sindarius Thornwell with 37 seconds left to play gave Carolina its largest lead of the night, 35-26, heading into the break. Thornwell would lead all scorers in the half with 10 points, and his five rebounds also led the way. Carolina’s defense held Alabama to just 7-of-28 from the floor in the half, including four different stretches where the Tide missed at least four straight shots.
A basket from Chris Silva to start the half gave Carolina its first double-digit lead of the game, but Alabama would soon bring it back to a five with 14:24 to play. A 14-5 run after that, keyed by a Duane Notice 3, would put the early comeback attempt on the back burner and staked Carolina to a 59-45 lead just four minutes later.
In a game that was physical from the tip, both offenses had slow nights, but foul troubles for Alabama would grind down its depth and give the Gamecocks 46 shots at the line (27 in the second half). It would also force the Tide defense to commit to a zone look, which would be punished over a key stretch by Carolina. Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugas Kacinas worked the high-low post game for baskets on three-straight possessions, and a 3 from Carrera would force the visitors to move back to man-to-man.
Retin Obasohan did everything he could to keep his side in contention, scoring ten-straight points for the Tide in a three minute span. It would not be enough, as the rest of his team shot just 32 percent (9-of 28) in the second half. He picked up his fifth foul off a technical with a minute to go, becoming the fourth `Bama player to be disqualified, and the Gamecocks salted the game away at the foul line.
Foul trouble kept the Crimson Tide out of rhythm all night. Three players, including two starters, were forced to sit with three fouls in the first half. In the second half, four would foul out. Now this season, Gamecock opponents have had two or more players foul out in nine of Carolina’s 21 games.
On a night where Carolina made just two more field goals than Alabama, the game was undoubtedly won at the free throw line. The Gamecocks made 28-of-46 shots at the stripe, compared to just 25 attempts for the Crimson Tide. Michael Carrera matched his career high with 12 makes at the line to lead the taem.
South Carolina hits the road for two-straight games next week, beginning with a Tuesday night matchup at Georgia. The Gamecocks tallied two wins vs. the Bulldogs last season, including at Stegeman Coliseum, but UGA won the final meeting in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Following its contest at Georgia, Carolina travels to face SEC leader No. 5/5 Texas A&M in College Station on Saturday. The Aggies have posted wins in both of their home games versus Carolina since joining the SEC for the 2013 campaign.
- Now 6-2 in league play, the Gamecocks matched their SEC win total from all of last season. The 19 wins are the most since getting to 21 in 2008-09.
- With 12 straight wins at Colonial Life Arena this season, the team has its longest home win streak since the 1997-98 group won 13 straight.
- The Gamecocks attempted 46 free throws for the game, the fourth time this season with 40 or more attempts in a game .
- With the win, Carolina has won four straight at home in the series (dating back to 2010). The team’s 78 points were the most in a game against the Tide since 2009.
- Alabama scored just four points off 11 Carolina turnovers, the lowest by an opponent this season since Drexel had two points off turnovers on Dec. 15.
- Over the last three games, Michael Carrera is averaging 23.8 points and 10.8 points per game.
- After pulling down 50 rebounds tonight, the Gamecocks finished with 50 rebounds in back-to-back games and now have reached the mark four times this season. The high for all of last season was 49.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Supporting @GamecockMBB today! #gococks pic.twitter.com/Yy28Ow8NAs
— Catherine Ramirez (@c_ram48) January 30, 2016