BATON ROUGE, La. | Bruce Ellington provided the latest evidence that he is no ordinary freshman right when it appeared South Carolina was on the verge of falling apart.
Ellington highlighted a 20-point performance with a momentum-changing pull-up jumper in the final minutes, and South Carolina snapped a two-game skid with a 64-56 victory over LSU on Wednesday night that sent the Tigers to their fifth-straight loss.
Ellington said he wasn't feeling any pressure after seeing his team's 13-point lead trimmed to four with a little under four minutes to go. He simply took a shot he knew he could make when his team needed it.
"I just stepped in and made a play for my team to help them win," said Ellington, who entered the game leading South Carolina with 14.2 points per game. "There wasn't anything going through my mind. I told my team just to stay focused and we can win this game and that's what we did."
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South Carolina coach Darrin Horn wasn't surprised to see Ellington turn in a crowd-quieting road performance that led the Gamecocks to a Southeastern Conference win they needed.
"He is a terrific player, and above that, he is a winner," Horn said.
Malik Cooke added 12 points for the Gamecocks (13-7, 4-3 SEC), who never trailed and held off LSU's comeback bid by allowing only three points over the final 3:52.
"You expect the home team to make a run, but I though we responded to it," Horn said.
Andre Stringer scored 19 points for LSU (10-12, 2-5), while Garrett Green added 12 points and nine rebounds. Malcolm White added 10 points, but the Tigers shot only 35.3 percent (18 of 51) and had six shots blocked, including four by Sam Muldrow.
"We didn't quit. That is the only positive we can take out of this game," guard Aaron Dotson said. "It's good that we fought. Other than that, nothing was good out there."
South Carolina led by as many as nine in the first half on Brian Richardson's 3 with 3:56 to go. Stringer responded with a 3, then Dotson hit a jumper and Stringer added a free throw to pull LSU as close as 26-23. The first of Ellington's three 3-pointers put the Gamecocks back up by six, but LSU closed the half with Green's free throws to pull to 31-27.
South Carolina quickly widened the margin to 36-27 when Ellington opened the second half with another 3 and Ramon Galloway added a jumper.
The lead hovered around double digits for much of the half and grew to 57-44 after Galloway's 3 from the right wing was followed by Damontre Harris' follow-up dunk with 7:23 to go.
LSU made one last bid to get back into it with a 9-0 run ignited by White's inside basket as he was fouled. Ralston Turner added a jumper and Dotson a 3-pointer from the corner during the surge. Then Stringer's driving layup, set up by a flamboyant crossover dribble, capped the spurt that pulled LSU to 57-53 and brought the crowd to its feet with 3:52 left in the game.
Soon after, however, Turner fouled out and South Carolina began to pull away again when Ellington hit his clutch pull-up and Muldrow scored inside to make it 61-53 with 2 minutes to play. LSU never threatened again.
"Ellington's a good player," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "He played beyond his years as a freshman. He made some nice plays, and then we had some breakdowns defensively, and we couldn't come from behind."
|SOUTH CAROLINA||Min||FG M-A||FT M-A||REB O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .440, FT .824.
3-Point Goals: 6-16, .375 (Ellington 3-8, Richardson 2-4, Galloway 1-3, Cooke 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 5.
Blocked Shots: 6 (Muldrow 4, Richardson, Cooke).
Turnovers: 13 (Harris 4, Ellington 3, Galloway 2, Jefferson, Muldrow, Cooke, Jackson).
Steals: 4 (Cooke, Harris, Ellington, Galloway).
Technical Fouls: None.
|LSU||Min||FG M-A||FT M-A||REB O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .353, FT .682.
3-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Stringer 3-8, Dotson 1-4, Derenbecker 1-4, Green 0-1, Turner 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 1 (White).
Turnovers: 14 (White 4, Dotson 3, Stringer 3, Turner 2, Derenbecker, Warren).
Steals: 5 (Green, White, Ludwig, Dotson, Bass).
Officials: J.B. Caldwell, Ron Groover, Karl Hess.