In a back and forth game that saw 27 lead changes, Auburn got the final points and the final stop to take a 74-71 victory over USC Saturday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 9117 at the Colonial Life Arena. Auburn improves to 2-0 in the SEC and 8-7 overall and the Gamecocks fall to 0-2 in the league and 10-5 overall.
USC has lost its two SEC games by a combined five points. And the Gamecocks have lost eight straight SEC games dating back to last season.
The Gamecocks held their largest lead of the second half after a three pointer by Damien Leonard put them up 61-57 with 8:34 to play. The teams continued to swap the lead over the next five minutes until Bruce Ellington tied the game at 71 on a two point jumper with 3:10 to play. That would be USC’s last points.
Frankie Sullivan hit a pair of free throws with 2:41 left to put Auburn up 73-71. Ellington and Michael Carrera missed jumpers, but a turnover by Allen Payne gave USC the ball with 1:35 left. Eric Smith, who hit a pair of three pointers earlier in the half, missed on a three and Carrera fouled out on the rebound sending Rob Chubb to the line.
Chubb made the first and missed the second giving USC life with :35 left. The Gamecocks worked a play and got the ball to Brian Richardson for a three just left of the key but he missed.
On the rebound scramble, the ball was knocked out of bounds by Auburn with :10 left. After a time out, Ellington fired up a three from the deep left corner but it was short and Auburn claimed the rebound and the win.
“We’re knocking on the door, we’re right there,” USC coach Frank Martin said. “That’s two games that we make one more layup, one more play, we’re probably sitting out 2-0 right now. I’m a lot more encouraged than I am discouraged. As we configure to fight to learn how to win these kind of games it’s going to be a whole lot of fun when we figure things out.”
Ellington led USC with a season high 18 points while Damien Leonard had 17 points and 9 rebounds. Sullivan led Auburn with 17 points. Auburn shot 58.5% for the game, the Tigers’ high mark of the season thus far and the best shooting day against the Gamecocks this season. The Tigers were 8-18 from behind the arc. USC shot 45% for the game and was 8-20 on threes.
The Gamecocks next play at LSU Wednesday night.