Gamecocks snap basketball losing streak to Tigers
COLUMBIA -- Another month, another losing streak snapped against Clemson for South Carolina.
In a subdued Colonial Life Arena on Sunday, perhaps a hangover effect from Saturday's SEC football title game, the South Carolina men's basketball team defeated Clemson, 64-60, to end a six-game losing streak in the hoops rivalry.
It was yet another positive development in what has become the year of the Gamecocks. After defeating Clemson in football last month for back-to-back wins in the football rivalry for the first time in 40 years, South Carolina now has bragging rights in both major sports.
"That's not a rivalry that's a pounding, and we needed to stop that," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "I know how important this is to Gamecock Nation ... I'm so happy for Sam (Muldrow) in particular."
Horn was happy for Sam Muldrow in part because he is a senior who entered Sunday without a win against Clemson (5-3), but also because he considered Muldrow the key player in the victory.
Muldrow did not lead the team in points or rebounds, but the 6-9 forward blocked five shots and altered others to hold Clemson to 39 percent shooting for the game, limiting the Tigers to 28 points in the paint. For good measure, Muldrow also knocked down a pair of critical free throws with less 20 seconds remaining to make it a two- possession game at 64-60.
"I just went to the line and knocked them down," said Muldrow, who Clemson coach Brad Brownell attempted to ice between free throws with a timeout.
Horn was encouraged by the victory, noting the Gamecocks (6-1) took another step in the building process by grinding out a win in game where Clemson controlled the tempo, slowing the game down in the halfcourt.
"The thing that continues to encourage me about moving forward and looking to the future, and I don't mean next year, I mean right now, tomorrow, is we keep finding ways," Horn said. "It's different guys. This wasn't a game where we got to play to our strengths."
On Sunday, former Berkeley High standout Bruce Ellington played an important supporting role, connecting on a key 3 with under a minute to play to lead all scorers with 14 points.
But Muldrow (13 points, 5 rebounds) was the star, intimidating shooters and redirecting shots. Muldrow helped limit Clemson's three primary forwards -- Jerai Grant, Milton Jennings and Devin Booker -- to 6 of 18 shooting.
After scoring efficiently last season, Booker has just six total points in his last three games. Booker, who is one of two remaining players from Clemson's heralded 2009 recruiting class (Jennings is the other), said he was too unselfish Sunday, and passed up too many opportunities. The prospect of Muldrow might have had something to do with that decision-making.
While the Tigers struggled near the basket, they also struggled from beyond the arc. Clemson made just 3 of 16 3s.
The Tigers have gone four straight games shooting under 30 percent from 3-point range.
Clemson 31 2960
South Carolina 34 3064
3-Point Field Goals Clem 3-16 (Booker 0-1, Stitt 1-4, Smith 0-2, Young 2-6, Stanton 0-1, Narcisse 0-1, Jennings 0-1); USC 6-13 (Muldrow 1-2, Richardson 2-5, Ellington 3-3, Galloway 0-3). Steals Clem 6 (Young 2, Jennings 2); USC 10 (Cooke 4). Blocks Clem 1 (Stitt); USC 6 (Muldrow 5). Turnovers Clem 16 (Grant 4, Young 4); USC 12 (Ellington 6). Technicals USC (Galloway). A 10,177.