South Carolina trailed by as many as nine in the first half, but the Gamecocks (4-6) out-scored Akron 44-28 in the second half to defeat the Zips (6-4) 69-59 to take third place at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Christmas Day in Honolulu. Five Gamecocks scored in double-figures, led by freshman guard Duane Notice with a season high 15 points.
"I was proud of our guys," South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said. "I thought we played real hard against Saint Mary's and didn't play very good against Boise, they had a lot to do with it, but proud of our young team that we didn't dwell on that negative moment and really came out today and battled.
"Today we tried to stick to our disciplines. And we fought and made the effort plays, we came up with the loose balls and we got on the offensive glass which created extra possessions and put us on the foul line."
The Gamecocks won the rebound battle 38-35 and scored 46 points in the paint. After poor shooting in the opening half, Carolina hit 46.7 percent in the second half to finish the contest with a 41.7 percentage (25-60) from the floor. Akron hit just 37.9 percent (22-58) for the game.
South Carolina committed a near season low 10 turnovers in the game, including just two giveaways in the second half. The Zips committed 16 turnovers, which led to 20 Carolina points, including 14 in the second half.
South Carolina committed three turnovers early in the contest, which led to four points for the Zips and Akron found itself with a 6-0 lead with just under 17 minutes showing on the clock, which forced Gamecock head coach Frank Martin to call an early timeout.
A 3 from senior guard Brenton Williams brought the Gamecocks within three at 10-7 at the 13-minute mark. The teams traded baskets midway through the half before a lay-in from Notice on an assist from Williams tied the contest at 13 with 9:27 showing.
Akron's Jake Kretzer hit a 3 for the Zips and Demetrius Treadwell added one from the free throw line, but the Gamecocks responded with another 3 from Williams and dunk from freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell to take their first lead of the game at 18-17 with 7:33 to play before the half.
A lay-in from freshman forward Desmond Ringer with 2:26 remaining in the first half broke a five-minute scoreless streak for Carolina and put the score at 24-20 Zips. Akron would score five unanswered in a span of 30 seconds to lead by nine with 1:46 remaining.
South Carolina would end the half on a 5-2 run with a 3-point play from Notice and jumper from sophomore forward Michael Carrera and the score stood at 31-25 Akron at the half.
The Gamecocks hit 11-of-30 attempts for a 36.7 percentage in the first half from the floor, with the Zips slightly better at 40 percent (12-30). Akron converted eight Gamecock turnovers into eight points, and the Zips tallied nine second-chance points in the half, compared to four for the Gamecocks on seven offensive rebounds.
Two Akron turnovers led to four points at the foul line from Thornwell early in the second half to bring the Gamecocks within two at 35-33.
South Carolina continued to play aggressively on both ends out of the under-16 minute media timeout. Carrera scored on a lay-in following a made free throw from Akron's Quincy Diggs, and Williams hit two from the free throw line to give South Carolina a 37-36 upperhand with 15:14 remaining.
Back and forth play followed with Treadwell and Diggs adding lay-ups for the Zips, but Carrera, Notice and Williams responded with jumpers for Carolina and the score stood at 43-42 Gamecocks at the under-12 minute media timeout.
Junior guard Ty Johnson extended the lead with a pair from the line, and Notice put the score at 49-43 Gamecocks with just under 11 minutes remaining.
A pair of free throws from Williams gave Carolina a 53-45 upperhand with just over seven minutes to play, but Treadwell connected for two free throws and Diggs hit a 3 from the corner to pull the Zips within five at 55-50 with 5:31 showing. Following a Carolina timeout, Johnson hit his fourth-consecutive free throw and Carolina's lead was seven.
Notice converted lay-ups on consecutive possessions for his 15th point of the contest, stealing a pass attempt from the Zips on the second basket to put the Carolina lead at 63-56 at the final media timeout of the contest.
Akron had their chances late in the contest, unable to convert on several lay-ups due to high pressure from Carolina's defense at the basket.
Johnson hit a lay-in with one second remaining on the shot clock with under a minute to play, and sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas added two with a dunk to put the score at 67-56 Gamecocks.
Akron's Quincy would hit a late 3, but Ringer connected for two at the free throw line to secure the 69-59 Gamecock victory.
Thornwell and Williams posted 12 points each in the win, and Carrera and Johnson contributed 10 a piece. Johnson's five assists were also a game high.
South Carolina out-scored the Zips 44-28 and shot 16-of-19 (84.2 percent) from the charity stripe in the half.
South Carolina travels back to Columbia to host Akron on Saturday in a schedule non-conference matchup between the two schools. Game time is set for 4 p.m. ET and the contest will be televised on ESPNU.