Freshman forward Sindarius Thornwell's first career double-double wasn't enough as South Carolina fell 75-74 to Ole Miss this evening at Colonial Life Arena in front of its largest crowd of the season at 14,302.
Thornwell led the Gamecocks with 24 points and a season high 11 rebounds, but he was unable to hit a tough off-balance shot from the top of the key with 1.8 seconds left.
Thornwell led all scorers, going 7-of-16 from the field and 4-7 from beyond on the arc. Anthony Perez led the Rebels with 22 points, while Marshall Henderson and Aaron each had 19.
Ole Miss opened up the game on a 12-4 run triggered by 3's from Henderson and Perez. Just over four minutes into the game, point guard Duane Notice was whistled for his second foul sending him to the bench. Two minutes later a dunk from Aaron Jones off of an inbound pass forced the Gamecocks to call its first timeout as they trailed by eight.
South Carolina began chipping away through Jaylen Shaw as the freshman hit a 3-pointer with 13:26 on the clock before converting a pair from the foul line 30 seconds later.
Trailing 16-9, Shaw drained his second 3 of the half at the 10:29 mark to bring the Gamecocks within three.
Just under two minutes later, Michael Carrera turned over Jarvis Summers and took it the length of the court for a layup to pull the Gamecocks within one. Fouled on the play, the sophomore converted the three-point play to tie the game. With just over eight minutes remaining in the half, Carrera gave Carolina its first lead with a pair from the free throw line.
Carrera continued to be the catalyst for the home team during the early part of the run as he pushed the lead to four as Thornwell found him on the back door.
Thornwell then extended the Gamecocks lead to 27-21 with a 3 from the right side. The forward added two more of his game-high 24 points with just over two minutes remaining in the half to give Carolina an eight-point lead. After two more from Mindaugas Kacinas, the Gamecocks took their largest lead of the half at 12, 37-25, after Desmond Ringer hit a pair from the foul line with 1:27 left.
Perez added two in the final minute for the Rebels, but Carolina took a 37-27 lead into the half as the team turned 11 Ole Miss turnovers into 16 points.
Despite two early free throws from Thornwell to open the second half, the Rebels went on a 15-2 spurt as Henderson scored seven straight points during the run after only scoring three in the first half.
After giving up the lead for the first time since the 8:06 mark in the first half, Thornwell responded with a back-to-back 3-pointers to hold the Gamecocks lead at 47-45. Henderson though, quickly responded with a 3 of his own to grab the Rebels the lead back.
Down three at 54-51, Thornwell leveled the game with his season-high fourth 3-pointer of the game with 11:26 on the clock, but South Carolina was unable to regain the lead until the 6:04 mark. Thorwell went was sent to the line after pulling down an offensive rebound a missed free throw. The freshmen hit 1-of-2 from the line to give the Gamecocks a 62-61 lead.
Notice extended the lead to three on the ensuing possession with a floater in the lane for his first points of the afternoon. The freshman point guard pushed the lead to five with four and half remaining, but the Rebels scored five straight points to tie the game up at 68-68 with 2:56 to play.
With 2:04 left, Summers drove hard through lane and kicked the ball out to Perez in the left corner where the forward hit his second 3 of the game. Brenton Williams attempted to match Perez at the other end, but his shot was off the mark. Summers then converted two from the foul line to push the Rebels lead to 73-68.
Ole Miss though was only able to hit 2-of-6 free throws in the final minutes as the Gamecocks closed the gap at the foul line. After Thornwell converted two attempts, Williams was fouled on a 3-point attempt with six seconds remaining. The senior calmly sank all three free throws to bring Carolina within one.
The Rebels were unable to get a clean inbound pass off and Williams grabbed the errant pass in the backcourt. Out of a timeout with 1.8 seconds left, Thornwell received the pass at the top of the key, but the pressure on the ball forced an off-balance shot that was wide of the mark.
Shaw and Williams each scored nine points on the day for the Gamecocks, with Williams going 9-of-9 from the charity stripe. Carerra chipped in eight points and six rebounds.
South Carolina held the 2014 Carolina Basketball Legends Weekend Commemorating Frank McGuire this weekend, and continued event festivities at the men's basketball contest versus Ole Miss. McGuire-era legends signed autographs pre-game on the concourse level at the arena, and all legends were honored in a pre-game ceremony on the court. Also at Saturday's game, the Gamecock football team was recognized at halftime. Head coach Steve Spurrier addressed the crowd, along with athletics director Ray Tanner, Jadeveon Clowney and Bruce Ellington.
The Gamecocks now hit the road this week as the team heads to Georgia on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for the 8 p.m. ET and will broadcast on SEC TV.