Booker’s 25 helps South Carolina past LSU 83-74 in OT
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Frank Martin needed talent after losing three of his best players from last year’s Final Four team. He turned to two graduate transfers mostly riding the bench at leagues far away from the Southeastern Conference.
And while a return to the NCAA Tournament isn’t likely, Frank Booker and Wesley Myers combined for 48 points to lead the Gamecocks (16-14, 7-10 Southeastern Conference) to an 83-74 overtime win over LSU on Wednesday night.
“Those two guys, I wish I could coach them a little longer. They accept challenges. They don’t mope. They don’t cry,” Martin said after the game, a few hours after he hugged their parents on senior night.
It was a typical South Carolina win with wild swings.
The Gamecocks led 62-47 with 8:08 to go. But LSU (16-13, 7-10) finished regulation on a 25-10 run and Tremont Waters’ 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left over 6-foot-10 Maik Kotsar sent the game to overtime tied at 72 and South Carolina’s main force inside, Chris Silva, on the bench with five fouls.
“You certainly feel good with Silva out and us having a little bit of momentum crawling back from 15 down,” Tigers coach Will Wade said.
On the other bench, Booker was heartbroken. He dribbled the ball into a double team and fell out of bounds with 11.4 seconds left giving the Tigers the chance to tie.
“It was one of those moments — dang, I thought I might have lost this one for us. But my teammates — the best teammates I’ve ever had — made sure I didn’t do anything else dumb,” Booker said.
LSU was confused on defense to start the overtime, Wade said.
South Carolina scored the first nine points of the extra period and LSU had two shots blocked, two turnovers and missed two free throws, a 3-pointer and a layup in their opening seven possessions of overtime.
Booker, who transferred from Florida Atlantic, had 25 points and Myers, who came from Maine, added 23, the most they have combined to score in any game this season.
“Wes had been asked to step away from the team and Book was barely getting in the game at Florida Atlantic,” Martin said. “And now they both play an SEC game with 25 and 23 to finish their senior seasons.”
Waters had 19 points and Brandon Rachal added seven points and 13 rebounds for LSU.
While 10 teams are either projected in the NCAA Tournament or on the bubble in the SEC, these two teams likely need to win the SEC Tournament for an NCAA bid. Right now they are trying to avoid the opening day of the conference tournament and needing to win five games in five days for a title. A win Saturday will likely be enough for either team.
LSU: The Tigers are going to have a winning season in Wade’s first year after being picked to finish last in the SEC before the season started and going 10-21 in 2016-17. But it could have been even better. This isn’t the first one LSU has let get away. LSU has now been down double-digits three times in the second half, come back, but not won.
South Carolina: The win helps the Gamecocks creep closer to a fourth straight winning season. And they will need that potential winning record to have a chance at a NIT bid.
Waters said he changed his coach’s play on the game-tying 3-pointer, saying he felt like “it was time to go.”
Wade said there was no magic, just a screen and a switch.
“The big switched on to him and he shot it over the top,” Wade said.
Martin was unhappy his team lost a 15-point second-half lead, but said winning is the most important thing.
“We do some stuff that is just mindboggling. You got to watch the game just like me. There are times I am on the sideline that I’m helpless with our inability to just make a simple pass. But somehow, someway, we figured out a way to win our seventh conference game,” Martin said.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks travel Saturday to No. 14 Auburn, where the Tigers need a win to clinch at least a share of the SEC regular season title.
LSU: The Tigers finish the regular season hosting Mississippi State on Saturday.