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story.lead_photo.caption South Carolina coach Frank Martin yells at A.J. Lawson during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

SOUTH CAROLINA 87, NO. 14 MISSISSIPPI STATE 82, OT

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The only SEC team with a losing record in nonconference play is now on top of the league.

Maik Kotsar scored a career-high 25 points and had nine rebounds to lead South Carolina to an 87-82 overtime upset of No. 14 Mississippi State on Tuesday.

The Gamecocks (7-7, 2-0) lost to Stony Brook and Wofford in November and stumbled to a 5-7 record before they found themselves with two dramatic wins. They erased a 14-point second-half deficit to beat Florida on Saturday and didn't crumble as the Bulldogs (12-2, 0-1) shot 44 percent (11 of 25) on three-pointers.

"It is what it is," Kotsar said of the slow start. "We kept on practicing."

The lack of passion from the junior from Estonia has puzzled Coach Frank Martin for three years. He worried Kotsar might never get past his tendency to be just the fifth man on the court.

"I've been fighting him -- in a good way -- to believe in himself," Martin said.

Kotsar had six of South Carolina's 12 points in overtime.

Freshman A.J. Lawson sealed the win and may have turned around what appeared to be a lost season for South Carolina when he stole the ball from Nick Weatherspoon at midcourt and finished with an emphatic dunk with 13 seconds left in overtime. The big play came as the Bulldogs tried to get a potential game-tying three-pointer.

Lawson came in as the team's leading scorer, averaging 13 points per game. Before the dunk he had just four points on 3-of-10 shooting, but senior guard Hassani Gravett said the freshman showed maturity.

"Even though he had some struggles, he is able to let that go and move on to the next play," Gravett said.

Gravett added 17 points, and Chris Silva had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Gamecocks.

Aric Holman had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Mississippi State. Nick Weatherspoon scored 17 points, and Lamar Peters had 16 points and 7 assists.

The Bulldogs had nine days off before Tuesday's game, and Coach Ben Howland said they have to adjust quickly to SEC competition.

"We've got 17 more games coming up like this one," Howland said.

In other Top 25 games, Freshman Zion Williamson scored a season-high 30 points with 10 rebounds, and No. 1 Duke won its first road game of the season by beating Wake Forest 87-65 in Winston Salem, N.C. RJ Barrett finished with 21 points and matched a season-high with seven assists, and Cameron Reddish added 10 points during his best game in a month, helping the Blue Devils (13-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) win their eighth in a row. ... Kyle Alexander had 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds as third-ranked Tennessee beat Missouri 87-63 in Columbia, Mo. Jordan Bowden came off the bench to score 20 points, Jordan Bone added 17 and Admiral Schofield finished with 16 for the Volunteers (13-1, 2-0 SEC), who beat Georgia by 46 points in their conference opener Saturday. Freshman Xavier Pinson scored 13 points and Jordan Geist had 12 -- all in the first half -- for Missouri (9-4, 0-1 SEC). ... Cassius Winston shook off a slow start and finished with 23 points to help No. 6 Michigan State (14-2, 5-0 Big Ten) beat Purdue (9-6, 2-2) 77-59 in East Lansing, Mich. Purdue got off to a strong start, rattling Michigan State with pressure defense and took a 9-2 lead a few minutes into the game. The Spartans cut down on their turnovers and held together as Winston, their leading scorer, made his first shot with 3:52 left in the first half and led 39-26 at halftime. ... Jarrett Culver scored 23 points and had 13 rebounds, and scored seven consecutive Texas Tech points to break a tie late in the second half, leading the No. 7 Red Raiders (14-1, 3-0 Big 12) to a 66-59 victory over 23rd-ranked Oklahoma in Lubbock, Texas. Christian James scored 14 points for the Sooners (12-3, 1-2) and Brady Manek added 13. ... Luke Maye scored 21 points to help No. 12 North Carolina hold off No. 15 North Carolina State 90-82 in Raleigh, N.C. Freshman Coby White added 19 points for the Tar Heels (12-3, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who scored the game's first 12 points and never trailed. ... Tyler Herro had 21 points, Ashton Hagans scored a career-high 18 and No. 18 Kentucky (11-3, 1-1 SEC) overcame a 10-0 deficit before holding off Texas A&M for an 85-74 victory in Lexington, Ky. ... Jeremy Harris scored a career-best 34 points in leading No. 19 Buffalo to a 110-80 rout of Toledo in Buffalo, N.Y. Harris scored 20 points in the first half alone and finished hitting a career-best six three-point baskets for the Bulls (14-1, 2-0 Mid-American Conference). ... Makai Mason scored 25 points, including five free throws in the final 38 seconds, as Baylor held on to beat No. 20 Iowa State (12-3, 2-1 Big 12) 73-70 in Waco, Texas. Devonte Bandoo made two free throws with five seconds left for Baylor (9-5, 1-1), and Iowa State had one more shot to tie the game but Nick Weiler-Babb's three-pointer from the right side was not even close. ... Phil Booth hit a go-ahead three-pointer late in the game and scored 23 points to help Villanova rally to beat No. 24 St. John's 76-71 in Villanova, Pa.

In SEC action, Tremont Waters scored 19 points and notched one of his seven assists while sitting on the court, and LSU defeated Alabama 88-79 in Baton Rouge. Kavell Bigby-Williams tied a season-high with 14 points, including a pivotal dunk with 1:19 to go, to go with a season-high 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots for the Tigers (11-3, 1-0 SEC), who've won four straight and six of seven. Kira Lewis Jr. scored 15 for Alabama (10-4, 1-1), which saw its five-game winning streak snapped

Sports on 01/09/2019

Print Headline: Carolina gets new life in SEC

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