BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Thanks to its defense down the stretch, LSU ran its winning streak to three games with a 64-58 Southeastern Conference victory against South Carolina on Wednesday night.
The Gamecocks jumped to a 56-52 lead with 4:33 to play after a layup and a 3-pointer by Michael Carrera. However, South Carolina scored just two points the rest of the game. The Gamecocks missed six of their final seven field-goal attempts with four of the shots blocked.
"Late in the game, South Carolina really got the tempo to their liking," LSU coach Johnny Jones said. "We are fortunate our guys did not hang their head. They were able to dig a little deeper and make some big plays, especially on the defensive end of the floor, to make sure we got out of here with a victory."
Josh Gray had one point when he started LSU's game-winning 12-2 run with a 3-pointer - just his fourth in seven SEC games. A basket in the lane by Gray gave the Tigers a 57-56 lead at the two-minute mark.
Tyrone Johnson scored the Gamecocks' only points down the stretch with a layup to put them back in front at 58-57 with 1:39 to play. A dunk by Jarell Martin off a pass from Tim Quarterman put the Tigers in the lead for good at 59-58 with 1:10 remaining.
The Gamecocks had two opportunities to take the lead in the last 35 seconds, but had shots blocked. Jordan Mickey blocked an attempt by Johnson and Keith Hornsby got a piece of a shot by Marcus Stroman.
"The block was something that we go over in practice," Hornsby said. "Little plays like that and being in the right position paid off in the right moment. I am only 6-4 and I have to cherish the blocks when I get them. I came up big at the right moment."
Gray then made the first of two foul shots. Mickey rebounded the missed free throw and was fouled. Mickey sank two free throws to give LSU a 62-58 lead with 19 seconds to go. Mickey blocked two more shots in the final seconds.
"The guys gave great effort again, but unfortunately we can write a book on how to mess up games in the last three minutes," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. "LSU is really good. They have two big guys inside (Martin and Mickey) and they complement them by playing those guards."
Quarterman led LSU (16-4, 5-2) with 16 points. Hornsby added 15 while Mickey had 14 points and six blocked shots. Martin, who also blocked six shots, had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Duane Notice was the leading scorer for the Gamecocks (10-9, 1-6) with 12 points. Sindarius Thornwell had 11 points and nine rebounds, while Johnson contributed 10 points.
"We let this game go and slip away," Thornwell said. "We had the momentum just about the whole game. We had a couple of defensive breakdowns and a couple of bad offensive possessions. We blew the game."
Neither team had more than a two-point lead for the first ten minutes of the game. Two foul shots by Martin with 9:41 remaining before halftime put LSU in front 19-15. The Tigers would a build a five-point advantage twice - the last at 24-19 on a basket by Hornsby with 6:13 to play in the half.
A pair of field goals by Notice enabled South Carolina to tie the score at 25-25 with 2:52 before halftime. The Tigers scored the next four points on a field goal by Quarterman and two foul shots by Mickey. A 3-pointer by Notice left the Gamecocks behind 29-28 at the half.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Two players, including starter Demetrius Henry, were unavailable due to concussions. Henry was averaging 6.7 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. Laimonas Chatkevicius replaced Henry in the starting lineup and finished with six points and four rebounds. Justin McKie, who was averaging 4.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 13 minutes per game, was also not in uniform.
LSU: Jordan Mickey, with his six blocks, moved into second place ahead of Chris Johnson on the Tigers' all-time list. Mickey, a sophomore with 177 blocks, trails only Shaquille O'Neal, who had 412 in three seasons. LSU blocked a season-high 13 shots with Jarell Martin also having six, a career high. He had never blocked more than three in a game.
QUICK SEC START
By winning its third game in a row, LSU moved into a tie with Arkansas, Georgia and Texas A&M for second place behind Kentucky in the SEC. The Tigers' 5-2 conference record is their best after seven games in the last six seasons. LSU's 2009 SEC championship team opened that season with a 6-1 league record.
South Carolina saw its SEC record dip to 1-6 as it continued to lose close games. Three of the Gamecocks' five previous league defeats came by a total of 11 points - 72-68 against Florida, 71-68 against Auburn and 66-62 against Tennessee.
LSU plays at Mississippi State on Saturday.
South Carolina is host Georgia on Saturday.
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