The last time USC played the top ranked basketball team in the country, the Gamecocks upset Kentucky in Columbia. Last night in Las Vegas, the Gamecocks faced the #1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. History would not be repeated.
The Gamecocks fell 87-62 in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational, held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Sophomore forward RJ Slawson had an impressive game for South Carolina, posting career highs with 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in the loss.
The Gamecocks had four reach double figures in the game, with freshman guard Damien Leonard leading the way with 15 points, followed by Slawson with 13, senior forward Malik Cooke with 12 and freshman forward Anthony Gill with 10. Slawson’s 14 rebounds were a game high.
The top-ranked Tar Heels were led by Harrison Barnes with 21 points, while John Henson added 18 and P.J. Hairston tallied 19. Sophomore guard Kendall Marshall collected 14 assists and six steals.
North Carolina jumped out to a 27-10 lead midway through the first half, but sparked by Slawson’s play, the Gamecocks battled back before halftime, where the Tar Heels would hold a 45-32 advantage.
Leonard hit two early 3s in the second half to pull Carolina within 11 at 51-40 with 16 minutes to go in the half.
The teams would trade buckets, but UNC would use a late run to push the final score to 87-62.
South Carolina shot 41.8 percent from the floor, hitting a season high nine 3s in the contest, paced by Leonard’s season high five 3s.
South Carolina will play Southern California on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET to conclude play in the Invitational. Southern California suffered a 66-55 loss to UNLV on Friday. The contest will be available on ESPN3.com.