Hayden Brown
Hayden Brown led the Gamecocks with 18 points in the loss at Tennessee Saturday (Gamecock Athletics)

USC put up a fight with 11th ranked Tennessee for a half, but the Vols eventually wore down the Gamecocks in the second half and ran away to an 85-45 win Saturday night in front of 20,273 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

The Gamecocks trailed 38-26 at the half but were outscored 13-4 in the first five minutes of the second half as the Vols turned the game into a rout.  USC hit back-to-back buckets to get back to within 17 points, but the Vols responded with the next 14 points for a 65-34 lead with 7:05 to play. The Vols went on to post a 40-point win. In early January they beat the Gamecocks in Columbia by 43 points.

USC shot 35% for the game including 18% from three (4-22). The Vols finished at 58% for the game and made 10-23 from three-point range. They outscored the Gamecocks in the paint 46-24 and turned 14 turnovers into 21 points. The Gamecocks forced only four turnovers.  Hayden Brown was the Gamecocks’ only double-digit scorer with 18 points. He had seven of the team’s 19 made field goals, and three of their four made three-pointers. The team’s leading scorer, GG Jackson, missed all four of his three-pointers. He was 2-12 overall and finished with five points and four rebounds.

The Gamecocks are 10-19 and 3-13 in the SEC. The loss clinched a spot for USC in the first round of the SEC Tournament as one of the bottom four teams in the standings.

Wednesday night in Columbia the Gamecocks battled 2nd ranked Alabama into overtime before falling 78-76.  Brandon Miller led the Crimson Tide with 41 points, the most points ever scored in the Colonial Life Arena by a visiting player and second most all-time behind the 44 points scored by Sindarius Thornwell against Alabama in 2017.  

Miller drove to the basket and made a layup to tie the game with :04 to play in regulation. Jackson’s shot to win from just across the timeline was well off, and the game went to overtime.  In the extra session, the largest lead either way was four points by Alabama. It was a two-point Bama lead when Meechie Johnson scored on a layup to tie the game at 76 with :21 to play. The Crimson Tide got the ball into Miller’s hands again and let him do his work, and he again beat the Gamecock defense to the glass and made a layup with nine-tenths of a second left. Johnson took the inbounds pass and heaved a shot about three-quarters length that hit the rim and backboard but bounced away.

Jackson led the Gamecocks with 19 points but did not score over the final 13 minutes of the game. It was Jacobi Wright and Johnson carried the Gamecocks down the stretch. Each scored ten points over the final 14:20, and each finished with 18 points.  

The Gamecocks will play at Mississippi State Tuesday night and then host Georgia for Senior Day on Saturday. The Gamecocks have not won a home game since the turn of the year. 

The SEC women’s regular season championship trophy is headed to Columbia. USC clinched at least a share of the crown Thursday night with a 73-60 win at Tennessee in front of 10,297 fans. For the Gamecocks, the title is their 7th since the 2014 season, and they will be the number one seed for the SEC Tournament next week in Greenville.  They will clinch the title outright Sunday with a win at home over Georgia.

The top-ranked Gamecocks got off to an uncharacteristically slow start shooting just 25% in the first quarter and trailed 19-10. They turned the game around with a 23-10 second quarter for a 33-29 lead at the break. USC continued to surge in the third quarter 26-12 for a 59-41 lead with ten minutes to play, and they went on to their third straight win over the Lady Vols.

Zia Cooke led four Gamecocks in double figures with 19 points. Kierra Fletcher added a season high (and Gamecock career high) 15 points. Aliyah Boston and Brea Beal contributed 11 points each. And Kamilla Cardoso grabbed 15 rebounds.

USC has won 34 games in a row, 30 straight SEC games and 20 straight road games. The Gamecocks are 28-0 overall and 15-0 in the SEC and will be the number one seed in next week’s tournament in Greenville which will mean for them a noon tipoff on Friday.  They will close out the regular season at home Sunday against Georgia. 

The Gamecocks had a more difficult time last Sunday at Ole Miss.  They were pushed into overtime before securing a 64-57 win.  Cooke was the difference-maker as the Gamecocks point guard scored 24 points and took on the challenge of defending the Rebels top threat, Angel Baker. Cooke played 43 minutes and sealed the victory with a steal from Baker in the final minute of overtime. The Gamecocks made four of their six shots in overtime while ratcheting up the defensive intensity, limiting Ole Miss to a single basket. 

The baseball team will take a 7-0 record into Sunday’s series finale with Penn at Founders Park.  Saturday afternoon Noah Hall and Matthew Becker combined on a three-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory.  Ethan Petry provided the lone run with a second inning homer. 

Friday afternoon the Gamecocks downed the Quakers 7-4 with Will Sanders earning his first win of the season.  Petry ripped a three-run homer as part of a five run second inning to give Sanders a working margin.  Cole Messina also homered in the 8th inning. 

On Wednesday the Gamecocks shutout Queens in Columbia 12-0.  Caleb Denny drove in five runs and Gavin Casas had three hits including his fourth home run on the season.  James Hicks started and won for the second time. 

Tuesday the Gamecocks continued with their early season offensive assault blowing out Winthrop 19-3 at Founders Park.  Petry hit two more home runs in the game.  Messina had a grand slam while Denny and Braylen Wimmer also homered.  Highly touted freshman Eli Jerzembeck pitched the first four innings, and reliever Eli Jones earned the victory.    

Last Sunday the Gamecocks completed a three game sweep of UMass-Lowell with a 12-1 win.  Jack Mahoney made his first mound appearance since having Tommy John surgery in 2021.  He pitched 5.1 innings and struck out nine while allowing five hits. Petry, Messina, Casas and Kevin Madden all went deep as the Gamecocks blasted 14 home runs in the series. 

The softball team extended their winning streak to 12 Saturday night with a 21-1 run-rule win over Tennessee Tech at the Mercer Bear Invitational in Macon, GA.  The Gamecocks scored 11 runs in the third inning.  They had 16 hits and four home runs for the game. Jordan Fabian and Aniyah Black each had two hits and four RBIs. Fabian had her first career multi-home run game while scoring four runs. 

Friday the Gamecocks had two more five inning victories, 10-2 over Jacksonville and 11-1 over Mercer.  Wednesday, they won at Georgia Southern 3-0, and last Sunday they downed Western Kentucky 11-2 in five innings, and Campbell 2-1. 

The Gamecocks are 12-1 and will play Belmont and Tennessee Tech Sunday in Macon. 

Anass Essayi and Filip Demsar each captured a gold medal in their respective events, posting 20 combined points between the two of them, at the SEC Indoor Championships concluded Saturday at Arkansas. Essayi began the day with a victory in the men’s mile, turning in a time of 4:01.20 to hold off Davis Bove (4:02.67) of LSU. Demsar won the men’s 60-meter hurdle out of lane two when he stopped the clock at 7.71, becoming the first Gamecock since Jason Richardson (2009) to win this event at the SEC Indoor Championships.

Three more Gamecocks scored points for the men on the final day. Kobe Franklin picked up two points in the high jump when he cleared 2.10m (6-10.75). Rogerio Amaral and Dylan Targgart each secured one point, Amaral in the 3K (8:04.04) and Targgart in the shot put (18.62m/61-1.25).

On the women’s side, the Gamecocks scored points in each event that they competed in. Silan Ayyildiz scored for the Gamecocks in the women’s mile with a program record and silver medalist honors (eight points) following a time of 4:32.14. She also earned five more points in the women’s 3K after placing fourth with a mark of 9:17.06.

KD Young jumped all the way into second all-time in program history in the indoor shot put when she launched a throw 16.84m (55-3) for a new personal best to place seventh and secure two points.

The women’s 4×400-meter relay team of Angel Frank, Aalliyah Francis, Alysia Johnson and Jahnile Registre turned in a bronze performance after posting a season-best mark of 3:32.35. 

Both the men and women’s team finished 11th overall, with the men tallying 33 points and the women scoring 24 points. This is the most points by the men since scoring 34 in 2018 and the most by the women since 2016 when they scored 26.  The Gamecocks will await the NCAA Indoor Championship announcement early next week to determine which athletes/relays remain inside the Top 16 to qualify for the national championship. The 2023 NCAA Indoor Championships will be held in Albuquerque, N.M. on March 10-11. 

Gamecock swimmers broke two school records Saturday at the UGA Last Chance Invitational.  Nicholle Toh dropped the program record in the 100 fly while senior Patrick Groters broke his own record in the 200 IM. In the women’s 100 fly, Toh took first with a 52.26.  In the men’s 200 IM, Groters clocked 1:43.22 in the finals for first place. 

In the women’s 200 back, junior Tatiana Salcutan placed first in both the preliminary and final heats, winning the final in 1:54.90. 

The 19th ranked beach volleyball team opened their season Saturday at Florida State with a sweep of 13th ranked Cal Poly and a 4-1 loss to #16 FIU.   Sunday the Gamecocks will face #20 Washington and Florida State. 

The women’s tennis team split a pair of matches Saturday in Stillwater, OK  The Gamecocks defeated Wichita State 4-1 and lost to Oklahoma State 4-0.  Last Sunday the Gamecocks won at Wake Forest 4-3.  They are 5-4 and will open SEC play Friday at home against LSU. 

The 8th ranked men’s team downed 12th ranked North Carolina for a second time this season last Sunday in Chicago 4-3.  Casey Hoole earned the winning point defeating Anuj Watane 6-3 in the third set of their match.  The Gamecocks are 10-1 and will open SEC play Thursday at Kentucky.  

The 6th ranked equestrian team lost to top-ranked SMU 13-7 Friday in their final regular season home match. The teams tied in Western 5-5, but the Mustangs won the day in Jumping Seat 8-2.  Junior captain Emma Lane earned her fifth MOP honor of the season in Reining.  The Gamecocks are 5-5 and 1-4 in the SEC.  They will conclude the regular season Friday at Auburn and then host the SEC Tournament March 24-25. 


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