The South Carolina men’s basketball team is fighting — and winning.
The Gamecocks watched a 12-point halftime lead evaporate in the first seven minutes of the second half, but battled to beat Wofford 64-53 at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday and extend their winning streak to six games.
The Terriers (4-6) beat the Gamecocks last year in Spartanburg en route to an NCAA tournament berth. Saturday’s game included four technicals, including one for a flagrant foul that got Wofford forward Jamar Diggs ejected with five minutes left.
“Our guys sensed Wofford came in thinking they were going to win the game, that they were going to roll in here and beat us,” USC coach Darrin Horn said. “And I think they took offense to that quite honestly, and so it was a little chippy, and it was a little emotional.”
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For the second consecutive game, South Carolina (7-1) found itself in a close game early in the second after holding a first-half lead. Against Wofford, the Gamecocks turned over the ball seven times in the first seven minutes after halftime and allowed Wofford to make six of its first nine shots.
“Defense. And then no defense,” said Horn of USC’s start. “We let them throw the ball wherever they wanted (and) fell asleep on a couple of shooters.”
Just like against Clemson on Sunday, South Carolina prevailed with defense and timely shooting. The Gamecocks held Wofford to 32.7 percent shooting and outscored the Terriers 36-16 in the paint.
“I like the fight this team has,” Horn said. “We’re not playing great offensively. We’re winning by playing with great toughness.”
USC dominated Wofford’s top scorer, Noah Dahlman, by blocking five of his nine first-half shots. He finished with 14 points, eight on free throws.
South Carolina also wore down Wofford by getting 11 players in the game, including eight who got at least 10 minutes. The Terriers, as they have all year, relied on seven players, which dwindled to six when Diggs was thrown out of the game.
USC forward Sam Muldrow sparked the Gamecocks with a double-double, scoring 14 points, grabbing 14 boards and blocking three shots. Ellington led the Gamecocks with 18 points, while forward Lakeem Jackson added nine points and seven boards.
Wofford, expected to repeat as Southern Conference champs, has not beaten a major-conference foe this season. Wofford became USC’s seventh opponent this season to shoot 40 percent or worse from the field. The Gamecocks also out-rebounded seven of its eight opponents, winning the battle of the boards 36-29 versus the Terriers.
Video: Darrin Horn postgame
Video: Bruce Ellington, Sam Muldrow postgame
Percentages: FG .327, FT .700. 3-Point Goals: 5-15, .333 (Rundles 3-7, Diggs 1-3, Giltner 1-3, Loesing 0-2). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 1 (Rundles). Turnovers: 17 (Loesing 5, Johnson 5, Diggs 5, Rundles, Martin). Steals: 8 (Diggs 3, Johnson 2, Giltner 2, Dahlman). Technical Fouls: Diggs 2.
Percentages: FG .490, FT .647. 3-Point Goals: 5-15, .333 (Ellington 3-8, Muldrow 2-2, Jackson 0-1, Richardson 0-2, Spinella 0-2). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 5 (Muldrow 3, Richardson, Jefferson). Turnovers: 19 (Ellington 6, Galloway 4, Jackson 4, Smith 2, Cooke 2, Slawson). Steals: 7 (Cooke 4, Ellington 2, Galloway). Technical Fouls: Cooke, Galloway.
Attendance: 8,813. Officials–Anthony Jordan, Mike Nance, Ron Groover.