COLUMBIA, Mo. – South Carolina (11-7, 1-4 SEC) held a 13-point lead early in the second half, but they could not hold off No. 22 Missouri (14-4, 3-2 SEC) as the Tigers defeated the Gamecocks 71-65 in conference action on Tuesday evening. Junior guard Brenton Williams scored 16 points on four 3-pointers to lead the offensive effort for South Carolina.
Junior guard Bruce Ellington scored seven points and brought down a team-high nine rebounds. Junior forward RJ Slawson scored 12 points and notched six boards. Freshman Laimonas Chatkevicius and senior Lakeem Jackson, both forwards, added nine and eight points, respectively.
For the Tigers, redshirt junior guard Earnest Ross scored a game-high 21 points and had 10 rebounds while senior forward Alex Oriakhi scored 18 and registered a game-high 11 rebounds. Redshirt sophomore guard Jabari Brown also reached double figures, tallying 17. Junior guard Phil Pressey dished out seven assists and scored six points in the matchup.
Jackson was active early with a 3 and free throw, which saw the Gamecocks hold an 11-6 lead with 14:51 remaining in the opening half. A layup and two made free throws from Oriakhi saw Missouri pull within one at 11-10, before Williams would hit back-to-back 3s just before the under 12-minute media timeout to see Carolina hold a 17-11 upperhand with 11:09 on the clock.
Free throws would be the story of the first half for the Tigers, as Missouri hit just two field goals the final 14:08 before the break.
The contest stood tied at 17 after a layup from Missouri's Brown with 8:26 to play in the half, before made baskets from sophomore guard Damien Leonard and Ellington, and free throws from the Tigers saw the contest tied at 22 with 4:35 to play.
Carolina would end the half on a 13-5 run, sparked from another 3 from Williams, a layup from Slawson just before the shot clock buzzer and a tip-in from Chatkevicius just before the halftime break. Missouri scored just one basket the final 8:26 of the half, a 3 from Ross, and the Gamecocks held a 35-27 upperhand at half.
After hitting just 14 total shots vs. Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks hit 13-of-32 (40.6%) in the first half, compared to just 6-of-30 (20.0%) made baskets for Missouri in the half. The Tigers kept the contest within reach with a 14-of-17 (82.4%) effort from the free throw line.
The Gamecocks extended their lead to as many as 13 at 41-28, before consecutive made baskets from Oriakhi and Ross saw the score at 41-33 with 16:01 on the clock, which forced a Gamecock timeout.
Freshman forward Michael Carrera connected for a layup out of the break on an assist from Chatkevicius, but the Tigers answered with fast break layups from Oriakhi and Ross to put the score at 43-37 Carolina with 14:15 to play.
Missouri claimed the lead at 44-43 after a made free throw from Brown with 12:25 to play to cap an 11-0 run for the Tigers.
A layup from Slawson halted the Missouri run and the score stood at 48-45 at the under 12-minute media timeout.
The Tigers extended their lead but a steal and layup from Williams at the 8:38 mark tied the contest at 49.
The teams traded made baskets with the Gamecocks holding a 54-53 upperhand after a 3 from Williams and near six minutes to play.
Carolina held a 56-55 upperhand with five minutes to play, but Pressey hit a 3 and then converted an assist with Ross to give the Tigers a 60-56 advantage near the four-minute mark.
On the other end of the court, Jackson got a reverse lay in to go down and drew Oriakhi's fourth foul. Jackson completed the three-point play to draw the Gamecocks to within one at 60-59.
After Brown split a pair of shots from the line to give Missouri the two-point lead, Jackson responded with another bucket and foul. This time he did not convert the free throw, leaving the game tied at 61.
Ellington was on the receiving end of a quick outlet pass and went full speed ahead to take the lead at 63-61. Ross hit two free throws for the Tigers on the next possession to pull even at 63 with two minutes remaining.
After a South Carolina missed shot, Missouri called timeout with 1:27 on the clock. Out of the break, Ross hit a 3 at the top of the key to break the tie, putting the Tigers up 66-63.
Williams drew Oriakhi's fifth foul on a drive to the basket with 46.8 to go and drained both shots from the line to pull within one.
Missouri called their final timeout with nine seconds on the shot clock and 20.4 in the game. Brown nailed a three from the corner on an assist from Ross to put the Tigers up by four at 69-65. Ellington missed a layup on the other end and junior forward Tony Criswell sank two more free throws to make the final score 71-65.
South Carolina will host Arkansas on Saturday at Colonial Life Arena. The contest will be televised on the SEC Network with tip time set for 1:47 p.m. ET.