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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — For most of Saturday's game against Coastal Carolina, South Carolina point guard Hassani Gravett was in Gamecock coach Frank Martin's doghouse.
Despite struggling on both ends of the court, Gravett stepped up with 6.5 second remaining to make a 3-point play to give the Gamecocks an 80-78 come-from-behind victory over Coastal Carolina.
The play allowed USC to earn a victory in a game it trailed throughout much of the second half. The Gamecocks survived Coastal Carolina getting two shots off as time ran out. The win, which improved USC's record to 8-2, was its third straight since returning home.
"Obviously we were fortunate to win that game, lucky to win that game actually," Martin said. "It is what it is. I'm not worried about the score of games.I've got two, three, maybe four guys that have been pretty consistent with listening right now but, outside of that we've got a lot of room for improvement."
Gravett has made just two of eight shots prior to the winning play when he banked in a short jumper following a drive, then hit the accompanying free throw.
"I just had to do whatever coach wanted of me," Gravett said. "We came down. He called a play and we tried to execute it. I saw I had the open drive so I just drove the ball. (Martin) is going to get on you for making mistakes and he should. But you have to keep your head in there and be ready whenever you name is called."
The win, which improved USC's record to 8-2, was its third straight since returning home following a loss to Temple in Madison Square Garden.
Martin was pleased Gravett made the winning shot, but believes he must improve if the Gamecocks are to be successful.
"Good for him," said Martin. "He made a shot to help us win the game. He's got a lot of growing up to do. We've got to figure out what we need to do to get him to be more consistent with his approach, his focus."
The loss dropped the Chanticleers to 5-5. Coach Cliff Ellis was pleased with the performance of his team, however.
"It's really disappointing," said Ellis. "We had an opportunity to win, but I can't say enough about the effort of our team or (South Carolina).We did what we needed to do. We just came up short.
"It will be a tough bus ride back. We thought we should have won, but give credit to South Carolina."
Martin has built his coaching reputation on defense. He has been frustrated that this year's team has not displayed toughness on that side of the court.
The Chanticleers exploited South Carolina's perimeter defense throughout, making 10 of 24 3-point attempts. When Coastal wasn't scoring from long range, its guards managed to beat defenders off the dribble.
The Chanticleers continued to take advantage of USC's defense in the second half, earning its largest lead (69-64) with 7:56 remaining on an Arthur Labinowicz jumper.
The Gamecocks pulled within one on several occasions, but appeared unable to re-gain the advantage until Gravett's play.
Coastal, which entered Columbia with a 5-4 record, returns home with confidence after struggling early in the season. The Chanticleers placed four players in double figures, led by Demario Beck with 20. He was followed by Jalen Shaw (17), Ajay Sanders (14) and Zac Cuthbertson (11). Shaw began his career at USC before transferring to Coastal.
"I have been excited about this game since the end of last season," said Shaw. "I looked at it as any other game. We were trying to get out of here with a win. I just wanted to play my heart out and try to get better."
Frank Booker paced USC with 19. Chris Silva (15) and Justin Minaya (13) were also in double figures.
Following s break for exams, South Carolina goes on the road to take on instate rival Clemson on Dec. 19. Following a holiday break it hosts Limestone on Dec. 27.
Coastal Carolina begins a five-game home stand, starting with Montreat Dec. 16.
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