FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A.J. Lawson scored 19 points for South Carolina and the Gamecocks never trailed but needed an Arkansas missed 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 79-77 victory on Wednesday night.
Each time Arkansas pulled within a possession, South Carolina responded, going 6 for 6 from the floor in the second half when the Razorbacks were that close.
“That’s the one thing I was so proud of our guys,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “And we did it without making free throws or 3s. We continued to scrap and fight and scrap and fight, and made enough plays offensively.”
The Gamecocks (12-8, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) shot 51% from the field, using their size and strength advantage to the effect of 36 points in the paint. Maik Kotsar, Trae Hannibal and Jair Bolden joined Lawson in double figures, scoring 10, 11 and 12, respectively.
Mason Jones had 34 points and 12 rebounds to lead Arkansas (15-5, 3-4). Isaiah Joe, who missed Arkansas' win on Saturday against TCU with knee inflammation, came off the bench to add 16 points.
The Razorbacks tied the game only once when Jones' driving lay-up and subsequent free throw knotted it at 40-all with about 19 minutes left. South Carolina made five of its next six from the floor and rebuilt its lead to nine.
Arkansas pulled to 78-77 on a pair of Jones free throws with 28 seconds to play and had the final possession with 26 seconds left, but Joe's 3-point shot from the corner careened off the rim to end the game.
South Carolina's edge in the inside was more pronounced. Arkansas, which played just one player taller than 6-foot-6, was challenged at the rim and shot just 32% in the first half and 41% for the game.
The frustration on the inside led to settling on the outside, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. The Razorbacks shot 7 of 26 from long range.
“We take 26 3s. We took nine the other night,” he said. “If, as a team you shoot under 30 percent from 3, you can’t keep doing that. It’s not effectively for us right now, not taking that many when we took nine last game.”
Arkansas fell to 10th in the SEC with the loss, damaging their NCAA Tournament chances.
South Carolina’s overall record isn’t as good as Arkansas, but the Gamecocks are in a tie for fourth in the SEC with five other teams nearing the midway point of the conference schedule.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL
The style fit South Carolina’s build as the teams combined to commit 57 fouls. Arkansas, which normally plays just seven players, had one player foul out. South Carolina had two disqualified, but its effect was different for Martin’s usual 11-man rotation.
Better free-throw shooting from either team would have helped their causes. Arkansas made 26 of its 40 shots (65%) from the line to South Carolina’s 17 of 33 clip (51.5%). Neither Martin nor Musselman were happy with their team’s percentage after the game.
“When you leave points on the board like we did from the foul line, I don’t know what else to do but have them shoot some more fouls shots, reps,” Musselman said.
South Carolina hosts Missouri on Saturday.
Arkansas plays at Alabama on Saturday.
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