Story from USC Sports Information:
Tennessee State started a run as the game passed the 10-minute mark and held a 15-9 lead with just over eight minutes left in the opening half. Carolina gained new life 30 seconds later after senior Malik Cooke poked the ball free from a Tiger guard and Lakeem Jackson collected the loose ball to take it down the floor and slam home a two-handed dunk.
Tennessee State’s Robert Covington would hit a 3 at the other end, but Cooke would follow with a free throw and Damien Leonard hit a 3 from the corner to pull the Gamecocks to within three points of the Tigers with 5:31 left in the stanza. Following the under-four minute media timeout, Tennessee State’s Jordan Cyphers buried two 3s and added three free throws, as the Tigers took a 33-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Sophomore forward Damontre Harris would convert a three-point play and Smith would hit a pair of 3s from the left wing to bring the Garnet and Black scratching back in the second half. With 10:07 left, Smith drove to the hole and dished a pass to RJ Slawson who finished the possession with a layup to near the score at 49-38.
The Tigers took a timeout to halt the momentum, but the Gamecocks’ run wasn’t over, as right off the break solid defense set up Cooke for a mid-range jumper followed by a 3 from the wing to pull within six points of the Tiger lead with 8:46 remaining.
Following the under-eight minute media timeout, Carolina pressed the Tigers off the break and Slawson came up with a steal at mid-court to set up a deep 3 from Smith at the top of the key to pull the Gamecocks to within two points with 7:20 left on the clock.
With 3:17 remaining, Tennessee State’s Wil Peters hit a 3 to push the lead to 63-56 Tigers, but Smith would respond with two more 3s to pull the lead back to two with 1:19 remaining in the contest.
A steal by Leonard gave the ball to Carolina with under a minute left. Slawson would be fouled under the basket with a chance to tie, as the score stood at 64-62 with seven seconds remaining. Slawson would hit one of the two attempts from the line, and the Tigers would miss the front end of a bonus shot from the line at the other end, but Tennessee State held on to earn the 64-63 win.
The Gamecocks held the advantage in the paint, outscoring the Tigers 24-14 and holding the rebounding advantage by a mark of 33-28.
Smith posted a career high with 18 points, while Jackson would add 12, and Cooke and Slawson contributed 10 apiece.
The Gamecocks are back in action on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena as they take on Mississippi Valley State in their second game of the Las Vegas Invitational.