Smiths lead No. 20 Missouri to 93-78 win over South Carolina
AJ Lawson led the Gamecocks with a game-high 22 points
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Dru Smith scored 17 and Mark Smith 13 as No. 20 Missouri snapped a three-game losing streak with a 93-78 victory over struggling South Carolina on Saturday.
The Tigers (14-6, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) opened up a 19-point lead in the first half and stayed comfortably in front the rest of the way to sweep the Gamecocks (5-11, 3-9), who lost their fifth consecutive game.
The Smiths, unrelated senior starters, powered Missouri’s game-changing 25-12 run in the opening half.
After Trae Hannibal’s second straight 3-pointer drew South Carolina to within 20-17 with 11 minutes left in the half, Mark Smith started the surge with 3 and Dru Smith followed with another from long distance.
By the time Dru Smith hit another 3 six minutes later, the Tigers were up 38-23 and cruising.
South Carolina rallied in the second half to slice its deficit to 59-52 on Justin Minaya’s basket with 10 minutes left.
Then the Smiths got going once more, with Mark scoring seven points and Dru four as the Tigers stretched the margin back to 73-56.
The Gamecocks could not respond.
Missouri finished with five players in double figures. Jeremiah Tilmon had 17 points, Xavier Pinson had 16 points and Kobe Brown 12, all in the opening half.
AJ Lawson had a game-high 22 points to lead South Carolina.
Missouri was contending for one of the top seeds – and the double-bye that comes with it – in the SEC Tournament before its three-game losing streak.
The Tigers’ defense played a big role early on as South Carolina, 12th in league shooting percentage, went 1 of 12 during one stretch. The Gamecocks had missed seven straight when Lawson nailed a 30-footer at the buzzer to give Missouri a 45-29 lead at the half.
> The Tigers shot 58 percent (34-for-59) and outscored the Gamecocks 46-32 in the paint.
> Junior guard AJ Lawson led the team with 22 points, his fourth straight game with 20-plus points. He hit four 3s, his 11th game of the 2020-21 season knocking down three or more 3s.
> Lawson now has 11 double figure outings in 12 SEC games this season, scoring 20 or more points nine times in those contests.
> Sophomore Trae Hannibal had a career-high 15 points and was perfect from the field, going 6-for-6. Junior Keyshawn Bryant also scored 15 to round out the Gamecocks in double figures.
> Senior Nathan Nelson made his first career start today against the Tigers on Senior Day.
South Carolina will be on the road for a pair of SEC matchups next week, beginning with a Wednesday night contest at Mississippi State (11-11, 5-8 SEC). Tip time at Humphrey Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. ET.