The South Carolina men’s basketball team defeated the Missouri Tigers 72-64 at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday for its third straight victory.
The Gamecocks swept the season series against the Tigers with the win. Their last battle was a much tighter contest, as junior guard Jacobi Wright iced the game in overtime for a 71-69 victory.
Graduate student forward B.J. Mack was the hot hand for the Gamecocks, scoring 21 points on 6-11 shooting. Mack also led the team in scoring in the last Missouri matchup, where he scored 21 points on a slightly less efficient 7-13 shooting.
“He can shoot it — put it on the ground. He’s a big body, so we're just trying to stay in front of him and don’t give him any advantages,” Missouri graduate student guard Sean East II said. “He did a good job of playing to his strengths.”
The first half was controlled by South Carolina, which went into the break leading 39-29. The team shot 6-13 from beyond the arc while finishing on a 9-3 run to close the half.
South Carolina received a surprising contribution in the first half from freshman guard Morris Ugusuk, who scored 8 points on 3-3 shooting. The freshman from Helsinki, Finland, was previously averaging just 2.6 points per game and hadn’t seen many opportunities in SEC play.
“I’ve started feeling back to it now, working, and getting the confidence back shooting,” Ugusuk said.
The Tigers came out strong in the second half, going on an 11-0 run in the first three minutes to take a 40-39 lead. The Gamecocks dominated the game of runs, however, going on a 7-0 run of its own a few minutes later to lead 53-46.
The most valuable contributor on both sides of the ball for the Gamecocks was freshman forward Collin Murray-Boyles, who amassed 7 points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks overall.
Missouri saw substantial contributions from East II, who tallied 21 points along with seven assists and two steals. The Tigers also had a strong showing from junior guard Tamar Bates, who went for 16 points on 8-14 shooting and seven rebounds.
The Gamecocks were able to thrive as a team despite a poor shooting performance from junior guard Meechie Johnson, who shot 0-9 from the field. Graduate guard Ta’Lon Cooper and Wright each scored in double figures.
“Our team (has) never been built on one player having to do something crazy every game," head coach Lamont Paris said. “We've got a lot of guys that can do something, that can make a play, that can make a shot. And it’s nice to be able to have that.”
With this win, along with victories against Arkansas and No. 6 Kentucky, the Gamecocks are creating results that could land it on the next AP Top 25 on Monday. This would be the first AP poll to feature South Carolina since it was ranked No. 21 in February of 2017.The Gamecocks advanced to the Final Four that season.
“I think it is a tremendous reward for (the team)," Paris said. “Some of these guys have probably never been on a team that's ranked before, so I think it's significant.”
The Gamecocks (17-3, 5-2 SEC) will return to action on Tuesday to take on the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers (14-4, 4-1 SEC) in Knoxville at 6:30 p.m. The game will be available on the SEC Network.