-- Michael Carrera is one of South Carolina’s best players, adept at scoring from 3-point range or in the paint.
The senior might make a pretty good coach someday, too.
The 24th-ranked Gamecocks rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half to force overtime and beat Ole Miss 77-74 on Tuesday.
It was the 6-foot-5 Carrera who made several crucial plays down the stretch, including the game-tying layup in regulation and the basket that put the Gamecocks ahead for good in overtime.
Both came after Carrera suggested to coach Frank Martin that he move into the post to take advantage of Ole Miss’ undersized frontcourt.
“That’s the great thing of having a senior — a guy who’s been through it with you,” Martin said. “When he talks to you on the bench, you listen.
“It was his suggestion. It wasn’t mine.”
And Carrera delivered, scoring 19 points, 17 after halftime. Laimonas Chatkevicius added 17 and 10 rebounds.
Ole Miss led 64-53 with 5:17 remaining in regulation, but USC slowly fought back, tying the game at 66 with 43 seconds left on a layup by Carrera.
Carrera also made the most important play in overtime, hitting a layup while getting fouled. He converted the free throw to give USC a 75-72 lead with 29.3 seconds left.
“We needed a big win like this one,” Carrera said. “We stayed together. We lose together, we win together and that’s how we’ve been doing it the whole season.”
USC (17-1, 4-1 SEC) had four players score in double figures.
USC won its second SEC road game of the season. It hasn’t won three SEC road games in a year since 2008-09. It was also just the Gamecocks’ second win in Oxford in 14 tries. The Gamecocks’ 17th win of the season matched their win total of all of last year.
Ole Miss (12-6, 2-4) has lost three straight games. Stefan Moody led the Rebels with 24 points while Anthony Perez added 16.
The 5-11 Moody has scored at least 20 points in 13 straight games. He became the 38th player in Ole Miss history to score 1,000 career points, needing just 52 games to accomplish the feat.
But the senior left the game with about five minutes remaining in regulation with an apparent left hamstring injury and Ole Miss was never the same. Moody returned, but moved gingerly and didn’t score again, lacking his usual explosiveness.
His injury was too much for an already hobbled Ole Miss team to overcome.
“To beat a ranked team — an SEC game — somebody has got to make a play,” Andy Kennedy said. “We didn’t do that.”
Martin turned to freshman Jamall Gregory, a high-jumping rookie with limited minutes, after P.J. Dozier and Marcus Stroman weren’t performing and he responded.
His take-off dunk from outside the circle started the run in regulation as USC corrected its issues from the line. Carrera hit a layup in traffic to make it a two-point game, then Gregory rebounded a missed Marcanvis Hymon shot that turned into another Carrera layup to tie the game.
Gregory ended with four points and five rebounds, all defensive.
Ole Miss was playing its first game without forward Sebastian Saiz, who is averaging 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He had surgery to repair a detached retina earlier Tuesday and is out indefinitely.
The Rebels did fine without him for most of the game. Perez made four 3-pointers in the first half and Ole Miss took a 39-29 lead into halftime when Moody hit a step-back rainbow 3-pointer over two defenders at the buzzer.
But USC stayed into the game thanks to another balanced effort. Carrera was especially impressive, making 6-of-8 shots from the field, 7-of-8 free throws and adding nine rebounds.
USC plays at Tennessee on Saturday.
No. 24 SOUTH CAROLINA 77, OLE MISS 74 (OT)
SOUTH CAROLINA (17-1)
Thornwell 1-15 3-8 5, Chatkevicius 5-9 7-7 17, Dozier 2-7 2-6 6, Carrera 6-8 7-8 19, Kacinas 5-6 0-0 10, Stroman 0-1 0-0 0, Gregory 1-1 2-2 4, Notice 5-13 0-0 14, McKie 0-1 0-0 0, Silva 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-62 21-31 77.
OLE MISS (12-6)
Hymon 3-9 4-11 10, Gielo 3-12 1-1 9, Perez 5-8 2-2 16, Brooks 0-10 2-4 2, Moody 8-13 4-4 24, Escobar 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 2-5 3-5 7, Fitzpatrick-Dorsey 3-4 0-0 6, Brutus 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 16-27 74.
Halftime—Ole Miss 39-29. End Of Regulation—Tied 66. 3-Point Goals—South Carolina 4-14 (Notice 4-8, Dozier 0-3, Thornwell 0-3), Ole Miss 10-33 (Perez 4-5, Moody 4-9, Gielo 2-9, Davis 0-2, Brooks 0-8). Fouled Out—Gielo, Perez. Rebounds—South Carolina 49 (Chatkevicius 10), Ole Miss 37 (Hymon 9). Assists—South Carolina 16 (Thornwell 6), Ole Miss 16 (Moody 5). Total Fouls—South Carolina 24, Ole Miss 25. A—7,427.