South Carolina rallies from 12 down to beat Vanderbilt, 74-71
Lawson scores 24, Gravett pours in 17 off the bench in the second half
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A.J. Lawson hit two free throws with 23.1 seconds left, and the South Carolina Gamecocks rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to beat Vanderbilt 74-71 Wednesday night to remain perfect in Southeastern Conference play.
Saben Lee’s 15 footer that could have given Vanderbilt the lead bounced off the rim with five seconds left. Hassani Gravett sealed the victory with two more free throws with 2 seconds left.
South Carolina (9-7, 4-0) came in having won its first three SEC games for only the third time since joining the conference. This time, the Gamecocks led for less than 2 minutes early and never by more than two until the final seconds.
Lawson finished with 24 points for the Gamecocks, and Gravett scored all of his 17 in the second half. Keyshawn Bryant added 13 on a night where Chris Silva, South Carolina’s leading scorer, finished with a season-low two points after foul trouble limited him to 13 minutes.
Vanderbilt (9-7) now is 0-4 in SEC play for the first time in program history.
The Commodores led 68-63 when officials called a technical on Saben Lee for celebrating blocking Gravett’s shot at the basket. Gravett hit both free throws with 1:38 to go, then added a 3 tying it up at 68 with 1:12 left.
Simisola Shittu hit a free throw and missed the second for Vandy’s last lead at 71-70 with 29.8 seconds left. South Carolina finished it off at the line.
Aaron Nesmith scored a career-high 23 points for Vanderbilt. The native of Charleston, South Carolina, and South Carolina’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018 opened by hitting his first five shots, including his first four 3-pointers, in helping Vanderbilt lead by as much as 12 in the first half and 39-29 at halftime.
Lee finished with 17 points, and Shittu had 13.
After the teams combined for 26 fouls in the first half, pace of play slowed even more in the second half with foul after foul called. Five Commodores and five Gamecocks had at least three fouls apiece with 15:00 left with each team trying almost as many free throws as shots from the floor. The game finished with a combined 55 fouls.
> South Carolina went 27-for-35 (77 percent) at the free throw line and finished 12-for-12 at the line over the final 3:17 of the game.
> The Gamecocks bench outscored Vanderbilt, 28-12.
> Redshirt senior guard Hassani Gravett scored all 17 of his points off the bench in the second half. The Villa Rica, Ga., scored nine of the team’s final 11 points in the last 1:38.
> Freshman point guard A.J. Lawson was one-point shy of tying his career high, leading all scorers with 24. The Toronto, Canada, native went 7-for-9 at the line and hit the game-winning free throws with 23 seconds left.
> Fellow freshman Keyshawn Bryant joined Gravett and Lawson in double-figures with 13 points. He went 6-for-11 from the floor and led the team with six rebounds.
> Sophomore forward Felipe Haase played 17 of his 23 minutes off the bench in the second half scoring nine points. He made a clutch 3-pointer that tied the game, 57-57, with 6:41 left.
> Haase, who came into the game one of the top free throw shooters in the SEC, went 6-for-6 at the free throw line. He’s 41-for-46 (89 percent) during the 2018-19 season.
> Tonight’s victory was Carolina’s first at Memorial Gymnasium since a 77-73 win on March 6, 2010.
> The Gamecocks are 4-0 in the SEC for just the third time ever in program history since joining the league in 1992. Carolina started 11-0 in 1997 and 5-0 in 2017.
The Gamecocks remain on the road, traveling to Baton Rouge to square off with LSU on Saturday (Jan. 19) at 6 p.m. ET. Kevin Fitzgerald (pxp) and Dane Bradshaw (analyst) are the TV crew assigned for the conference clash on SEC Network. The Gamecocks and Tigers are two of three unbeaten teams left in SEC play.