COLUMBIA – Mindaugas Kacinas tipped in a missed shot with 16.6 seconds left to give South Carolina a 67-66 win over Alabama on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (10-15, 3-9 Southeastern) lost a 12-point lead in the second half, but freshman Sindarius Thornwell made two baskets and three free throws in the final 2:11 to pull South Carolina back.
Thornwell finished with 22 points as the Gamecocks won back-to-back SEC games for the first time since 2011.
Alabama (10-15, 4-8) had a chance to take the lead, but Trevor Releford’s 3-pointer got stuck between the rim and backboard with 5.8 seconds to go. The stuck ball resulted in a jump ball and he possession arrow pointed to the Gamecocks, killing off the Tide’s final chance.
Releford finished with 27 points, 25 of them in the second half. Alabama has not won an SEC road game this season.
South Carolina appeared to be heading for an easy win, leading by nine at half and taking a 37-25 lead on a Brenton Williams 3-pointer with 17 minutes to go, but the Crimson Tide went on a 35-19 run. The run started with free throws – at one point Alabama hit 10 in a row on five possessions – and ended with a 3-pointer by Releford, a 3 by Shannon Hale and another 3 by Releford.
But Michael Carrera stopped the run with a layup on a lob. Then Thornwell took over with a short jumper, a free throw and a floater on a drive that put South Carolina ahead 63-62 with a minute left. The freshman has scored 20 or more points in five SEC games.
Thornwell also was assigned to guard Releford in the final minutes and kept the ball out of the hands of Alabama’s top scorer in two key late possessions.
Rodney Cooper made one of two free throws with 46 seconds left to tie it at 63. The Gamecocks then got the ball into Carrera who missed a heavily-contested short jumper, but Kacinas slipped in for the tip-in. It was South Carolina’s 32nd point in the paint. Alabama had just 16 points inside.
Williams, South Carolina’s top scorer, had just 10 points with none of them coming in the final 17 minutes. Carrera finished with eight points and seven rebounds and Kacinas had six points.
Shannon Hale and Rodney Cooper each added 11 points for Alabama.
Alabama took an 11-9 lead on two free throws by Jimmie Taylor with 11:40 left in the first half, but the Tide would only hit two more field goals the rest of the half and trailed 28-19 at the break. Alabama had eight turnovers and shot just 25 percent (5-of-20) in the half.
The Gamecocks shot 48.9 percent (23-of-47) from the field for the game, while Alabama shot 41.9 percent (18-of-43).