USC Men's Basketball

CLA thriller: Gamecocks outlast No. 14 Bulldogs, stay undefeated in the SEC

Frank Martin: ‘Trust’ was key for South Carolina to upset No. 14 Mississippi State

South Carolina men's basketball coach Frank Martin talks about how his Gamecocks team was able to upset No. 14 Mississippi State at Colonial Life Arena with better trust between players and coaches.
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South Carolina men's basketball coach Frank Martin talks about how his Gamecocks team was able to upset No. 14 Mississippi State at Colonial Life Arena with better trust between players and coaches.

Hassani Gravett twirled twice before reaching the bench. South Carolina’s team confidence was pumping through its senior guard who is playing the best basketball of his career.

The Gamecocks hosted a top 15 foe on Tuesday night, a timely test for a bunch coming off a head-turning win at Florida. Could the good vibes continue? It looked that way early when Gravett, in Frank Martin’s dog house as a junior, made the 24th 3-pointer of his senior season and No. 14 Mississippi State was forced to call timeout. USC had a lead — and it kept it.

Carolina has a win over a top 15 team in consecutive seasons thanks to a 45-minute effort that left everyone exhausted and 8,776 spectators at Colonial Life Arena overjoyed.

Gamecocks 87, Bulldogs 82. In overtime.

Maik Kotsar scored a career-high 25 points, including a monster baseline jumper with 43 seconds left, to help USC (7-7 overall) to 2-0 in the SEC for the second time in three years.

“Obviously that was a real easy game,” said USC coach Frank Martin, tongue firmly in cheek.

An A.J. Lawson jumper gave USC its first lead in overtime. Kotsar had a put-back to put Carolina ahead by four with 1:47 left. His 10-footer made it 85-82. Lawson, who was mostly quiet in regulation, had a steal and dunk to stamp the final score with nine ticks remaining.

The Florida result wasn’t a fluke. Tuesday was more proof. Mississippi State’s nine-game winning streak is done thanks to the Gamecocks.

“It starts in practice,” said Gravett, who scored 17 and added seven boards with a couple assistants. “We’ve been relentless in practice, bumping heads and getting on the boards. We all did good job of rebounding. Once we got the stop, we’d finish it out with a rebound. That helps us a lot.

“We just didn’t let up. We kept the gas going, no brakes.”

USC was plus-seven on the glass. Its 16 offensive boards were its most since the season opener against USC Upstate.

Kotsar had a clutch bucket, free throw, block and rebound in the final minute-plus of regulation for the Gamecocks. The latter of those plays set up a long Gravett try at the buzzer that barely missed. It was 75-all after two halves, marking the second straight OT game between these two teams.

Kotsar made 10 of his 18 field goal attempts and pulled down nine boards.

“I thought Kotsar killed us,” said MSU coach Ben Howland.

South Carolina men's basketball player Maik Kotsar talks about where his 25-point performance against No. 14 Mississippi State ranks among the best games he's ever had, and Gamecocks coach Frank Martin explains how clutch Kotsar was.

After a whistle-free first half, Chris Silva picked up his third foul at the 14:17 mark of the second half. He went to the bench. The Gamecocks were without their All-SEC forward and clinging to a two-point lead.

Didn’t seem to matter all that much. Carolina responded by extending the advantage to seven less than two minutes later. An emphatic slam from Kotsar made it a 58-51 game.

“It felt good,” Kotsar said. “It felt really good.”

MSU, though, didn’t go away. A 3 from Lamar Peters tied things at 63. A 3 from Aric Holman made it 66-all. Holman did it again at the 5:02 mark to cap a 9-2 Bulldog run to put them up four. Holman finished with 20 points.

The game featured 12 lead changes.

The teams teased a track meet from the opening tip. Mississippi State led 25-21 at the 10:26 mark as teams had combined to make 60 percent of their shots. MSU’s quick guards were a blur in the half-court, but the Gamecocks manged to keep pace, feeding off energy from their veteran big men.

Silva and Kotsar combined for 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in the opening period. MSU countered with 18 points from its all-Weatherspoon backcourt duo.

The Bulldogs led 35-30 with 4:03 left before the Gamecocks closed the half on an 11-2 run. A Gravett 3 at the 1:28 mark gave Carolina its first lead in 13 minutes.

BOX SCORE

MISSISSIPPI STATE (12-2)

Holman 6-11 3-4 20, Ado 5-7 2-4 12, Peters 5-14 2-5 16, N.Weatherspoon 7-12 3-4 17, Q.Weatherspoon 5-14 3-4 15, Feazell 0-0 0-0 0, Perry 0-3 0-2 0, Woodard 0-1 0-0 0, Carter 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 29-64 13-23 82.

SOUTH CAROLINA (7-7)

Silva 5-11 0-0 11, Bryant 3-9 0-0 7, Kotsar 10-18 5-5 25, Campbell 3-10 2-4 10, Lawson 3-11 0-0 6, Haase 3-8 3-4 11, Hinson 0-1 0-0 0, Gravett 6-13 3-4 17. Totals 33-81 13-17 87.

Halftime: South Carolina 41-37. End Of Regulation: Tied 75. 3-Point Goals: Mississippi St. 11-25 (Holman 5-8, Peters 4-10, Q.Weatherspoon 2-4, Perry 0-1, N.Weatherspoon 0-2), South Carolina 8-23 (Haase 2-4, Campbell 2-5, Gravett 2-6, Silva 1-2, Bryant 1-2, Lawson 0-4). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: Mississippi St. 37 (Holman 10), South Carolina 43 (Silva 12). Assists: Mississippi St. 17 (Peters 7), South Carolina 15 (Silva 4). Total Fouls: Mississippi St. 16, South Carolina 16.

NEXT GAME

Who: Missouri at South Carolina

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Colonial Life Arena

TV: SEC Network

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.

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