ATLANTA (USC SID) - In a back-and-forth affair that saw 18 lead changes during the second half, South Carolina (14-19, 5-13 SEC) was able to outlast Arkansas (21-11, 10-8 SEC), 71-69, this afternoon in the second round of the SEC Tournament at the Georgia Dome. The win marked the first time since 2006 that Carolina had won consecutive games in the tournament.
Freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers with 17 points despite playing only 28 minutes after getting in foul trouble. Sophomore forward Laimonas Chatkevicius had a career day, posting 16 points as he hit 8-of-10 from the line to go with seven rebounds. Arkansas was led by Coty Clarke, who had 13 points, as Bobby Portis and Rashad Madden each added 11.
With the score tied up at 8-8 four minutes in after a jumper from Demetrius Henry, Arkansas was able to take a five-point lead over the next two minutes. The Razorbacks largest lead of the half was short lived though as Thornwell knocked down his third 3-pointer of the half. A layup by sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas on the following possession knotted the game back up at 16-16
With 8:50 on the clock, Notice gave the Gamecocks a 21-20 lead after a layup before adding a free throw after being fouled on the play.
Holding a one-point lead with five and half minutes to go, Carolina scored five unanswered from the charity strip to extend its lead to 30-24. After jumper from Arkansas’ Alandise Harris cut it to four, Jaylen Shaw pushed the lead back to six at the other end for the Gamecocks.
After the Razorbacks trimmed their deficit back to three at the line, Brian Steele sank a corner 3 with 25 seconds. The Gamecocks were unable to take the six-point lead into the half as Arkansas’ Anthlon Bell hit a 3 at the buzzer off an inbound pass with less than two seconds on the clock.
South Carolina took a 35-32 lead into the break as Thornwell led all scorers with 11 points despite missing time after picking up his second foul with just under 10 minutes to go.
Arkansas came out the half, scoring four points to take the lead, but a 3 from Notice put Carolina back on top. With the Gamecocks holding a two-point lead after a jumper from Chatkevicius, the Razorbacks scored five unanswered to take a 45-42 lead with 14:38 remaining.
Another bucket from Chatkevicius and pair from Williams at the line pushed the Gamecocks back ahead, but the lead didn’t last as the teams continued to trade points. With only three lead changes in the opening 20 minutes, the second half saw lead exchange hands 18 times.
With a 56-55 lead with 8:18 left after Williams’ only field goal in the game, Carolina then saw the lead slip away again. The Razorbacks got two free throws from Fred Gulley before Moses Kingsley got free on the baseline for a two-handed dunk.
With 3:23 remaining, Clarke found space at the top of the key and hit a 3-pointer for the Razorbacks to push his team ahead, 67-66, just after the Gamecocks had regained the lead. A layup from Michael Qualls followed to extend the advantage, but Carolina continued claw back from the free throw line. With 1:36 left, Thornwell hit two from the line to tie-up the game at 69-69. After Arkansas’ Mardracus Wade missed an open 3, Williams was sent to the line. The nation’s leader in free throw percentage heading into the game missed the first though, his second of the day, but recovered to make the second attempt to give the Gamecocks a one-point lead.
A missed jumper from Madden resulted in Thornwell going to back to line for South Carolina with 20 seconds left. The freshman though was unable to extend the lead after missing both attempts as the Gamecocks clinged to a 70-69 lead.
With the game hanging in the balance, Portis backed into the lane and got a hook shot off with seven seconds, but the ball rimed out and Carrera was there to gather the rebound. Immediately fouled, the sophomore hit one of two.With two seconds on the clock, Arkansas got a shot off from the 35 feet, but the shot was off the mark as the Gamecocks left with a 71-69 win.
The victory was Carolina’s third in a row, and fourth in the last five games dating back to March 1.
Despite losing the field goal percentage battle with South Carolina shooting 38.3 percent (18-of-47) and Arkansas at 42.6 percent (23-of-54), were able to overcome it and earn only their second win this season when losing the battle due to their aggressiveness on the glass. The Gamecocks held a decisive advantage on the boards at 40-24. Kacinas led Carolina with 10 rebounds for the second straight game, while Chatkevicius and Carrera each added seven.
With the win, South Carolina will play fourth-seeded Tennessee in the second game of Friday’s first session. Tipoff is schedule to begin at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET, or 25 minutes after the first game ends. Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and Shannon Spake will be on call for ESPNU.