AUBURN, Ala. — KT Harrell scored 24 points and Cinmeon Bowers recorded his SEC-leading 11th double-double of the season as Auburn defeated South Carolina 71-68 on Saturday night.
Bowers finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds — his third double-double in four SEC games — and Auburn (10-7, 2-2 SEC) improved to 9-1 at home.
“That’s probably the loudest it’s been since I’ve been here,” Harrell said. “When you have that type of crowd and that type of energy, it makes you feel like you can’t lose.”
Head coach Bruce Pearl said his team’s performance at the line — where Auburn hit 26 of 33 and the Gamecocks made 8 of 15 — was the difference in the game.
“We did a great job converting at the foul line tonight,” Pearl said. “I’m really proud of our team and it doesn’t happen without a sellout crowd.”
Antoine Mason scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half and the Tigers took a 39-29 lead into halftime.
South Carolina (10-6, 1-3) scored the first seven points of the second half and tied the game with 12 minutes remaining on a Laimonas Chatkevicius.
“It was South Carolina’s offensive execution to start the second half and it was our not having the same energy,” Pearl said. “The crowd was still coming back from the concession stand and we weren’t as sharp.”
The Gamecocks used a 9-0 run to grab a 58-53 lead with 4:43 left, but the Tigers responded with a 12-1 run to take the lead for good.
Mason said a four-point play from Harrell with 4:24 remaining was the momentum changer that sparked the Tigers’ comeback.
“Once it went in, it changed the whole momentum,” Mason said. “We got more confidence and then focused on defense.”
Chatkevicius had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Gamecocks. Duane Notice scored 16 while Tyrone Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell added 13 apiece.
Auburn: Saturday’s sellout crowd was the 6th in Auburn Arena history. Average attendance has increased by close to 2,000 in Pearl’s first season at the helm.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks scored 21 second-chance points in their midweek victory over Alabama, but were held to just nine on Saturday.
Former Auburn running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown were in attendance Saturday night. Brown and Williams were selected in the Top 5 of the 2005 NFL Draft (Brown No. 2 Overall, Williams No. 5 Overall)
Auburn will play Mississippi State on Jan. 21.
South Carolina returns home to play Tennessee on Jan. 20.