COLUMBIA — KeyLaw? BrySon?
Nicknames and merchandising can simmer for now, as South Carolina’s pair of fabulous freshmen, A.J. Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant, were content to accept their current tags.
The two combined for 31 of the Gamecocks’ 45 second-half points Saturday, leading USC to a 77-65 victory over Arkansas to stay firmly in fourth place in the SEC. Trailing 13 with 15:37 to play, closing in on matching its season-high of 22 turnovers, USC was done, cooked, over.
And like so many other times through this stunning SEC season, the Gamecocks, breathing ragged and their bubble about to burst, just couldn’t accept it.
Lawson scored the next seven points, Hassani Gravett drained the tying 3-pointer and USC (12-11, 7-3 SEC) was resurrected. Bryant flushed an alley-oop pass from Lawson to amplify a strong Colonial Life Arena crowd, broke another pair of defender’s ankles with a nasty Euro-step crossover and the Gamecocks sprinted to the finish.
Lawson finished with 24 points while his roommate, Bryant, had 17.
“He starts doing something, I got to start doing something,” Bryant said.
“I’ve had to be patient,” coach Frank Martin said, “and I’ve learned from those two young kids.”
* As they’ve shown six other times in league play, there’s no quit in the Gamecocks. No matter the situation, they feel like they always have a chance.
“Go play the next play. You don’t dwell on the score,” Martin said of his under-16 timeout instructions, with the Gamecocks trailing 13. “There’s nothing more irrelevant than the score of the game, except when the game is over.”
“It’s kind of like a mental thing,” Bryant said. “We’re always told, ‘Even though you’re down, don’t put your head down.’”
* Gravett played a terrific second half, ending with nine points, five rebounds and three assists. He hit the tying 3-pointer, Arkansas took the lead after Gravett turned it over, then he stole a ball and fed Bryant to break another tie.
* The Gamecocks have made 21 3-pointers in their last two wins.
* The two freshmen stole the headlines but Chris Silva was his reliable self. He scored 16 on 4-of-5 shooting, and had eight rebounds.
He only had three fouls in 30 minutes.
* After letting Georgia and Kentucky do whatever they wanted on the glass, USC held Arkansas to nine offensive boards.
* USC had 15 turnovers in the first half, and ended just one short of its season-high (22). The Razorbacks had 25 points off them.
“We were just making too many bad passes,” Lawson said.
Man down … officially
USC announced before the game that Justin Minaya will officially redshirt the season. It was the expected move, since the Gamecocks had a minimum 10 games left to play before Saturday and Minaya still wasn’t cleared.
His experience will be vital next year for a team that’s losing Silva and Gravett. While he’ll have three years of eligibility remaining, he’ll also be in his third year. Martin has often credited Minaya’s maturity and leadership in the locker room.
The Gamecocks are at No. 1 Tennessee on Wednesday.