South Carolina battled back from a 16-point deficit midway through the second half, but the Gamecocks (8-14, 1-8 SEC) suffered a 79-74 loss to Auburn (11-9, 3-6 SEC) in SEC play on Wednesday night at Colonial Life Arena. Senior guard Brenton Williams led Carolina with 29 points in the contest, hitting 10-of-14 from the field, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Chris Denson and KT Harrell led the Tigers with 25 points each in the game.
Williams' six 3s continued a five-game stretch in which the senior has made at least four 3-pointers in a game. Despite only eight points, freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell totaled season high's in assists with nine and steals with four. Sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas added 14 points and six rebounds, while freshman guard Duane Notice chipped in 12 points and six rebounds.
The first half started off as a back and forth affair, opening with both team's trading 3-pointers in the opening possessions.
The Tigers hit the first run of the evening to open up a seven-point advantage. With 8:26 on the clock, Harrell converted two at the line to start a 9-2 run that ended with the guard finding Jordan Granger underneath the basket for a dunk to give the visitors a 29-22 advantage.
After four straight points from sophomore forward Michael Carrera and tip in by Kacinas, the Gamecocks closed the gap back to within two, but Auburn answered with five in row to push the lead back to seven.
Williams scored the final six points of the half for the Gamecocks with his second 3 of the game and an and-one after a strong drive to the basket as South Carolina ended the half down 38-35.
A Williams 3-pointer and a jumper from Notice kept the deficit at two early in the second half, but seven straight made field goals from Auburn, with three from Denson, and two Harrell and Tahj Samshid-Deen, turned the tide. The run extended nearly four minutes as the Tigers outscored the Gamecocks 16-2 until Williams converted a pair at the line before hitting a corner 3 on a fast break to bring the deficit to 13 with 12:08 remaining.
The Tigers' run though was followed by a shift in moment as Williams and Thornwell took charge for South Carolina on an 18-2 to bring South Carolina within two.
Back-to-back steals from Thornwell led to a two-handed dunk from Williams, which he followed up with his fifth 3 of the game. The 10 consecutive points from Williams cut the deficit to eight with 10:28 on the clock.
Four more field goals, including a coast-to-coast layup from Thornwell after his career high fourth steal, saw the Gamecocks pull even at 62-62 with 7:25 left.
In less than a minute though, Denson scored five unanswered to give the Tigers a six-point lead at 69-63 with just over five and half minutes.
With just over a minute remaining, Thornwell made a hard drive in the lane and dished to Henry for an open dunk to cut it to 75-71. After Harrell sank two free throws, a 3-pointer by Williams on the other end brought the game to three with 23 seconds on the clock. Shamsid-Deen converted both free throws on the ensuing possession though to put the game out of reach as the Tigers won 79-74.
After both teams shot just over 44 percent in the first half, the Tigers shot 66.7 percent (14-21) compared to the Carolina, which went 15-34 (44.1 percent).
South Carolina continues SEC play when it travels to Tennessee on Saturday for the lone regular-season meeting between the two schools. Game time at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville is set for 4 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ESPNU.