South Carolina (7-3) defeated Appalachian State (2-8) 74-69 on Wednesday night in non-conference action at Colonial Life Arena behind a season-high 16 points from senior forward Lakeem Jackson.
Freshman forward Mindaugas Kacinas recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Kacinas also registered a career-high 3 blocks in the contest. Junior guard Brenton Williams put 11 points on the board in the effort. Junior guard Eric Smith tallied seven assists in the first half, matching a career high, and surpassed it with two more dimes after the break. In the last 80 minutes of basketball, Smith has handed out 16 assists while recording only 3 turnovers.
Appalachian State had three players reach double figures. Junior forward Tevin Baskin, sophomore guard Mike Neal and redshirt sophomore Jay Canty all scored 16 points on the night. Canty, along with senior forward Nathan Healy, collected a game-leading eight boards.
Junior forward RJ Slawson scored five early points to give the Gamecocks a 7-2 lead out of the gate. The Mountaineers closed the gap to three at the score of 11-8, but Williams hit a 3 and Slawson added his third basket of the half to double up on Appalachian State at 16-8. Another Williams 3 followed by a bucket by Kacinas gave South Carolina their largest lead of the game at 11.
Down 29-20 at the last media timeout of the half, the Mountaineers finished the first half with a flurry of action. Appalachian went 5-5 from the free throw line and scored three transition baskets during a 15-5 run. Canty's fast break basket gave the visitors their first lead of the game at 35-34 with 28 seconds remaining before the break.
Junior guard Bruce Ellington hit his first basket of the night, a 3-pointer, with seven seconds on the clock to give the upper hand back to the Gamecocks and the teams went into the locker room with a 37-35 score.
The Mountaineers scored the first five points of the second half to take a three-point lead. South Carolina responded with a 13-3 run to take a 52-45 advantage with 13:26 remaining. Ellington and Kacinas keyed the stretch with five and four points, respectively.
Appalachian responded with a 9-2 run to tie the game at 54 all and the teams traded baskets for a stretch. South Carolina built a nine-point margin after a Kacinas basket just after the final media timeout of the game.
Yet again, the Mountaineers finished the half with a flourish, pulling within two at 71-69 with only 19 seconds on the clock. The Gamecocks went 3-for-4 from the free throw line in the closing seconds to hold on for the 74-69 victory.
South Carolina travels to Brooklyn, N.Y., on Saturday for a 5:30 p.m. ET, neutral site match up vs. Manhattan. The contest will be played at the newly opened Barclays Center.