Petty, No. 11 Alabama hold off South Carolina 81-78
Lawson scores game-high 21, his sixth 20-point outing in nine SEC games
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — John Petty Jr. wasn’t going to let another one slip away for Alabama.
The 11th-ranked Crimson Tide were coming off their first Southeastern Conference loss of the season last Saturday and were locked in a tight game with pesky, determined South Carolina.
Behind Petty’s 20 points and three 3-pointers, they came through, bouncing back from their loss to No. 10 Missouri with an 81-78 victory over the Gamecocks on Tuesday night.
”I was going to do whatever it took to get a win,” Petty said.
It took about every point he could score as the Gamecocks (5-8, 3-6 SEC) rallied from 78-70 down in the final four minutes to cut it to 79-78 with 2 seconds left.
But James Rojas preserved the win with two foul shots to keep Alabama’s best league season in more than six decades going. The Crimson Tide (16-5, 11-1) won their sixth straight over the Gamecocks.
”We’ve got a special thing going this year and we’re real motivated,” Petty said.
With South Carolina trailing 79-76, coach Frank Martin said he drew up a play with three options for a tying 3-pointer. Instead, Jermaine Couisnard connected with Justin Minaya for an uncontested layup.
The Gamecocks were forced to foul Rojas, who made his free throws.
”Instead of running what we asked to run, we just kind of … no mental connection with the situation,” Martin said.
AJ Lawson led South Carolina with 21 points, making five 3-pointers.
The Gamecocks had their chances. Wildens Leveque tied it at 59 with 11:11 left before Alabama went ahead for good on Jaden Shackelford’s layup on the following possession. Jahvon Quinerly extended the lead with a jumper.
The Gamecocks scratched back within 65-64 on Lawson’s 3-pointer and a foul shot by Bryant. But Petty, the team leader in made 3s, hit another from behind the arc and South Carolina could not rally, losing for the third time in its past four games.
Alabama, which fell behind by 22 points to Missouri before losing 68-65, trailed South Carolina 16-5 with less than five minutes elapsed.
That’s when the long-range shooting of Petty and Joshua Primo got Alabama back in contention. Primo, a 6-foot-6 freshman, had totaled seven points combined in his last three games with only one 3-pointer. This time, he hit three of his team’s six 3s in the first 20 minutes and had 10 points at the break.
Quinerly finished with 13 points for the Tide while Petty added eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
> South Carolina struggled from the 3-point line for the second consecutive game, going 6-for-25 (24.0 percent) from deep.
> Junior guard AJ Lawson continued his solid play, finishing with a game-high 21 points and six rebounds. He knocked down five 3s in 32 minutes of action. Lawson now has eight double figure outings in nine SEC games, scoring 20 or more points six times.
> Redshirt junior Justin Minaya had a season-high 15 points in 38 minutes. He also pulled down seven rebounds and had a pair of blocks.
> Junior Keyshawn Bryant was efficient with 16 points and six rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting.
> Redshirt senior Seventh Woods scored in double figures for the fourth-straight game with 11 points.
Carolina concludes its homestand on Saturday when it hosts Ole Miss (10-8, 5-6 SEC) for a 6 p.m. ET matchup at Colonial Life Arena. Mike Morgan (play-by-play) and Mark Wise (analyst) will have the call for the SEC Network broadcast.