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Back on track: No. 20 South Carolina picks up road win at Ole Miss

After a week-long break, South Carolina was back in action for the final stretch of the regular season. The Gamecocks, returning from their bye on a two-game skid, made the return trip to Oxford, Mississippi to visit Ole Miss.

USC had already defeated the Rebels on Feb. 6, 68-65, during its seven-game SEC win streak. The Gamecocks had no problem handling the Rebels in the rematch, taking Ole Miss down 72-59 at The Sandy and John Black Pavilion.

Locked down on defense

South Carolina held Ole Miss to 22 points in the first half, the lowest the Rebels have scored this year. The culprit? The Gamecocks held them scoreless for roughly 13 minutes of the first half, including a 6:27 drought that closed out the first half.

The Rebels played most of the first half without their top forward, Matthew Murrell, after he picked up two personal fouls just four minutes into the game. Murrell sat for the remainder of the half, having not scored any points yet, before returning to start the second half.

Collin Murray-Boyles picked up three personal fouls in the first half, and also missed a large portion of the first half. South Carolina had five players with three personal fouls in the final five minutes of the game, while Ole Miss had two. But that doesn’t include the Rebels’ Allen Flanigan was given a Flagrant 2 foul in the second half for elbowing Zach Davis in the head.

Still, Ole Miss was shooting just 27% at the half and 33% by the end of the game, scoring just three triples compared to South Carolina’s eight. The Rebels had 16 fouls called on them against the Gamecocks, putting USC into bonus territory with seven minutes to play.

Zach Davis steps up in Oxford

Davis has already been placed in pivotal positions this season. He took over the starting role for Myles Stute when the junior was out with a shoulder injury, he’s picked up significant minutes against top 10 conference games, including against Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn.

Head coach Lamont Paris chose Davis to become a starter because of his defensive pressure. Davis knows how to make it difficult for an opponent to set up a screen, to get the ball in the paint, whether USC is set up in man-to-man or zone coverage.

Davis had his offensive game rolling in Oxford, though. He scored six of USC’s opening eight points and was the first player into double figures Saturday afternoon. He led all scorers in points for 30 minutes of the contest, and finished with a career-high 14 points, making it the third game this year with at least 10 points and fourth double-digit scoring affair in his career. He was just one rebound shy of his first career double-double.

South Carolina had four players in double figures: Davis (14), Murray-Boyles (12), Jacobi Wright (10) and BJ Mack led the way with 17 points.

SEC standings update

South Carolina’s tenth SEC win of the season keeps it in third in the conference standings, with Tennessee playing Texas A&M on Saturday night. If the Vols lose, they’ll be in a tie with the Gamecocks in second place with 10-4 SEC records. If Tennessee wins, it will stay in sole possession of second place.

Other games of note for the SEC standings battle include Alabama at Kentucky and Auburn at Georgia. Florida’s win over Vanderbilt secures the Gator’s fifth place spot for the remainder of Saturday’s games.

Top five SEC teams following the Gamecocks’ win

  1. Alabama (11-2)

  2. Tennessee (10-3)

  3. South Carolina (10-4)

  4. Auburn (9-4)

  5. Florida (9-5)

Next four games

  • Feb. 28 at Texas A&M, 8:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

  • March 2 vs. Florida, noon (ESPN)

  • March 6 vs. Tennessee, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • March 9 at Mississippi State, 2:30 p.m. (SEC Network)