COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) No. 23 South Carolina entered Saturday night with the nation’s best 3-point defense, holding opponents to 26.4 percent from beyond the arc.
So it’s not surprising that struggling Missouri had a miserable night from deep.
Sindarius Thornwell had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Missouri shot just 5.9 percent from 3-point range and South Carolina beat the Tigers 63-53 on Saturday night.
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The Gamecocks got their first ever win inside Mizzou Arena.
”We’ve spent a lot of time on our defense, and there’s a reason for it,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. ”To win on the road, you’re not going to outscore home teams. You need to go out there and figure out a way to survive, and to survive, you’ve got to scrap and claw, and we try to do it through our defense.”
Rakym Felder had 12 of his 13 points in the first half and was 3 of 4 from 3-point range for the Gamecocks (17-4, 7-1 Southeastern Conference).
Russell Woods had 18 points and eight rebounds and K.J. Walton added 12 points for Missouri (5-15, 0-8).
The Tigers held South Carolina without a field goal for the opening 5:12 and led 7-0 before a 3-pointer by Thornwell, who finished 1 for 7 from beyond the arc.
”We’ve got to start better offensively,” Martin said. ”I’m a little disappointed with our not answering the bell to the physicality of the game, but we do play hard.”
The Gamecocks’ defense set the tone, though, holding the Tigers to 35.7 percent from the field, including 1 of 17 from 3-point range. South Carolina had four blocks, six steals and 16 points off 15 Missouri turnovers.
Felder’s big first half helped the Gamecocks overcome early shooting woes. With 8:47 remaining in the first, Felder tied it at 13 with an off-balance 3-pointer from the top of the key as the shot clock expired. By halftime, the Gamecocks held a 26-22 lead, which they never surrendered.
In the second half, foul trouble significantly limited Missouri’s rotation. The Tigers committed 21 fouls, including 14 in the second half. Terrence Phillips had five points and three assists in 22 minutes before fouling out with 18 seconds remaining. Phillips has fouled out of Missouri’s last four games.
Jordan Barnett finished with two points and five rebounds, shooting 1 for 7 from the field in 21 minutes.
The Gamecocks took advantage at the foul line, converting 14 of 19 attempts, including 13 of 17 in the second half.
Duane Notice scored nine points and P.J. Dozier had seven points and five rebounds for South Carolina.
Woods, who fouled out after playing just 12 scoreless minutes in Wednesday’s 89-74 loss at Mississippi State, attributed his success Saturday to the style of play in the game.
”It just felt like the refs let us play,” Woods said. ”It was a big difference. They allowed to teams that wanted to play aggressive to play.”
With 4:01 remaining in the first half, Missouri guard Jordan Geist dribbled along the baseline, nearly losing his balance before firing a pass in traffic to a streaking Walton for a two-handed dunk that tied the game. Geist finished with six points, four rebounds and two assists.
South Carolina: Bench play was crucial for the Gamecocks, as they outscored the Tigers’ reserves 22-8 behind Felder and Hassani Gravett, who had four points in nine minutes, including an off-balance jumper with three seconds remaining in the first half.
Missouri: The Tigers are on a 12-game losing streak and have lost 13 consecutive conference games dating to last season. Their last SEC victory came at home against South Carolina, 72-67 on Feb. 16, 2016.
South Carolina: Visits LSU on Wednesday. The Gamecocks won the last meeting 94-83 on Feb. 10, 2016.
Missouri: Visits No. 25 Florida on Thursday. The Tigers have not won at the O’Connell Center since joining the SEC in 2012.