BC-BKC--Mississippi-South Carolina,1st Ld-Writethru
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina keeps digging a hole and then the Gamecocks keep finding a way to pull themselves out.
South Carolina (14-12, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) won its fifth SEC game after trailing by double digits, beating Mississippi 79-64 on Tuesday night.
The Gamecocks seem like they have been in a hole all year. They started the season 5-8 in nonconference, including losses to Stony Brook and 6-19 Wyoming. They have been down by at least 10 in nine of their 13 SEC games. And now they are fourth in a league with three teams in the top 13.
“They are taking me on an unbelievable ride,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.
Tuesday’s ride for Martin started with the Rebels (18-8, 8-5) hitting their first five shots and taking a 13-2 lead less than four minutes in. The Gamecocks answered with 16 straight points, took their own 11-point lead before the half was over and never trailed again.
Ole Miss did tie it at 61 with 6:18 left. But South Carolina scored on its next six possessions to put it away.
Chris Silva led the Gamecocks with 18 points, including four points and an assist in that final push.
“Silva just kind of had his way during that last run,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said.
Terence Davis had 18 points and Breein Tyree added 17 points for Ole Miss.
A.J. Lawson had 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Hassani Gravett added 15 points and eight rebounds for South Carolina.
The win put the Gamecocks into fourth place in the SEC all by themselves, which could be critical for a team that might not want to lean on an unorthodox bubble resume. The top four teams get a double bye in the SEC Tournament and only need to win three games to get the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid. South Carolina leads every other team by at least two games and now will have the tiebreaker over Ole Miss.
Mississippi: The Rebels are ranked 30th in the new NET rankings the NCAA is using to select tournament teams. Tuesday’s loss won’t knock them on to the bubble, but with home games remaining against No. 4 Kentucky and No. 5 Tennessee, the margin for error is getting smaller.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have been down by double digits in nine of their 13 SEC games, including all four of their losses. All of South Carolina’s defeats have come to the SEC’s top three teams, the Wildcats, the Volunteers and LSU.
BEWLIDERING BUBBLE TEAM
The Gamecocks aren’t even on the radar of the bracket experts yet. But if they keep winning, they could soon be a most interesting case for the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
South Carolina’s terrible 5-8 nonconference schedule has them 94th in the NET rankings. Only Georgia and Vanderbilt, with just one SEC win between the two of them, are lower. But South Carolina is alone in fourth in a league that at the moment appears to have six locks and two teams on the bubble.
Martin said any team that wins 12 league games in a conference like the SEC should get in. But he also keeps the advice of his coaching mentor Bob Huggins of West Virginia in his mind. “At the end of the day, if you win enough, you get in,” said Martin, quoting Huggins.
Davis said South Carolina looked like an NCAA Tournament team Tuesday night.
“If they get in the tournament, they can sure win games,” Davis said.
The Gamecocks made 9 of 19 3-pointers, continuing a torrid pace. They have made 49 of 88 (55.7 percent) from behind the arc the past four games.
South Carolina was 0-for-18 shooting from behind the arc in the opening game of the season against USC Upstate and has shot 25 percent or worse on 3s in five games this season.
Mississippi: The Rebels host next-to-last-place Georgia on Saturday.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks head to Mississippi State on Saturday in their last chance for an attention-grabbing road win.
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