Two offensively challenged teams faced up Sunday afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum. And while it wasn’t on the level of Kentucky-UNC, it was still an exciting finish as USC defeated Clemson 58-55 for its second straight win in the series after six straight losses.
The Gamecocks trailed most of the game after falling behind 17-16 with 10:24 left in the first half. The Tigers led 35-28 at halftime. USC did not take the lead in the second half until a basket by freshman Anthony Gill with 3:28 left made it 49-47. Clemson tied the game on a Devin Booker layup, but Gill nailed a three with 1:19 left to make it 52-49 USC.
Booker hit a pair of free throws to cut it to one, but then came arguably the biggest basket of the game, jumper from the wing by Eric Smith that made it 54-51.
It was 56-53 when Clemson’s Tanner Smith was mugged going up for a three with 7.5 to play. He made the first one, missed the second and made the third.
Trailing by one, the Tigers fouled Malik Cooke with 6.7 to play. Cooke, the Gamecocks leading scoring and a 76% free throw shooter, canned both for a 58-55 lead.
The Tigers got the ball to Andre Young near mid court but his desperation heave just across the line missed everything. Clemson made just two baskets over the final nine minutes.
Gill and Damontre Harris led USC with 10 each. Harris also had 6 rebounds and 5 blocks. Smith led the Tigers with 12 and also had 5 assists.
USC improves to 3-5 and returns to action December 13th at home against Presbyterian. Clemson drops to 4-3, with all three losses coming to in-state teams. The Tigers next play at Arizona December 10th.