What a difference home makes.
The South Carolina Gamecocks men’s basketball team avenged one of their only losses this season, a 23-point blowout to Alabama earlier this month, by defeating the Crimson Tide 78-64 Saturday night in Columbia.
With the win, USC moved to 19-2, tying them with three other Division I schools (North Carolina, Xavier and Grand Canyon) with the most victories so far this year. South Carolina also moves to 6-2 in the SEC and remains a game behind Texas A&M in the conference standings. Alabama falls to 11-9, 2-6 in the SEC.
USC led the entire second half, and virtually the entire game, taking the lead for good with a little more than eight minutes left in the first half at 22-20 on a three-pointer by senior forward Mindaugas Kacinas, who finished with eight points. The Gamecocks led by nine at the half, 35-26.
The lead expanded to as many as 15 points in the second half before Alabama was able to pull within six at 67-61 with 4:15 left in the game. The Gamecocks were able to hold the Crimson Tide scoreless for nearly the next three minutes while rattling off seven consecutive points to seal the victory.
Senior forward Michael Carrera led the Gamecocks with a double-double, coupling 20 points with 11 rebounds, while Junior guard Sindarius Thornwell scored 14 and grabbed seven boards.
Crimson Tide sophomore forward Riley Norris, who scored a career-high 27 points in their first meeting, hitting eight three-pointers, was held in check in the rematch in Columbia, scoring only 11 points, and converting only three of seven long-range shots. Senior guard Retin Obasohan led the way for Alabama with 23 points.
When the Gamecocks lost to Alabama, they were one of only two remaining undefeated Division I men’s basketball programs left in the nation. Since then, USC picked up a second loss against Tennessee. While they’ll have to wait until Feb. 24 for a chance to avenge their other loss on the year, they’ll first half to go through a difficult part of their SEC schedule.
USC next travels to Georgia on Tuesday, and follow that game with a road trip to league-leader Texas A&M, followed by home games against LSU and Kentucky.