By Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe
Maik Kotsar scored a career-high 25 points to lead South Carolina to a thrilling overtime win over No. 14 Mississippi State Tuesday night.
Kotsar scored six of his 25 points in overtime as the Gamecocks played their best game of the season in the 87-82 win.
The win was the second straight SEC win for the Gamecocks, who knocked off Florida in Gainesville on Saturday. Carolina improved to 7-7 and 2-0 in conference play.
Kotsar, who struggled early in the season, was 10-of-18 from the floor and 5-for-5 from the foul line and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Gamecocks. Senior guard Hassani Gravett added 17 points and seven rebounds, while Chris Silva had 11 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Felipe Haas added 11 points and six boards, while point guard Tre Campbell chipped in with 10 points and three assists.
Aric Hollman had 20 points for Mississippi State, which also had five players in double figures. The Bulldogs fell to 12-2 on the season after dropping its SEC opener.
Kotsar, who was a freshman on South Carolina's Final Four team in 2016-17, had his best game of the season and maybe of his career.
"Kotsar killed us," Mississippi head coach Ben Howland said. "He really hurt us in the second half on the glass. Their guys that played on that Final Four team all stepped up and had big games for their team."
"I saw the Maik I knew he can be and the Maik we have been asking him to be. We need this from him more, for sure," Gravett said.
“It felt really good. I got my confidence going," Kotsar said.
South Carolina led by as many as seven points in the second half before MSU rallied to take a 72-68 lead. Gravett cut the lead to 73-72 before Kotsar scored on an assist from Silva and completed a three-point play to give the Gamecocks a 75-73 lead with 2:05 remaining.
Quinndary Weatherspoon tied it with 1:37 remaining and Gravett's long three at the buzzer rattled out of the basket, sending the game to overtime.
The two teams traded baskets in overtime until Gravett put the Gamecocks up 81-79 with 2:35 remaining. Kotsar then got an offensive rebound and put-back to give Carolina a four-point lead with 1:39 left.
Mississippi State cut it to one on a free throw and a steal and layup by Lamar Peters but Kotsar struck again, hitting a baseline jumper for an 85-82 lead with 43 seconds remaining. Freshman A.J. Lawson, who put Carolina up 79-77 with a jumper early in overtime, sealed it with smothering defense that led to a steal and a dunk for a five-point lead with 8.5 seconds remaining.
After starting the season 5-7 in non-conference play, South Carolina has played its two best games against two of the top teams in the SEC. What was the difference?
“We have been relentless in practice, bumping heads and getting on the boards," Gravett said. "We just didn’t let up. We kept the gas on, no brakes. ... That’s the reason we have been able to pull through with the win at Florida and then today."
"We came together as a team really well and kept pushing each other," Kotsar said. "Everyone kept their foot on the gas and kept on going."
South Carolina led 41-37 at the half but MSU used a 6-0 run to regain the lead at 51-50 early in the second half. But Campbell hit a three for the eighth lead change of the game and then Kotsar capped an 8-0 run with a dunk to give the Gamecocks their biggest lead at 58-51 with 12:22 remaining.
MSU responded with a 9-2 run to tie the game at 63, but Felipe Haase countered with his second three of the game to put the Gamecocks back on top with 7:23 remaining.
Carolina played its best basketball of the season in the first half and led the Bulldogs 41-37 at halftime.
The Gamecocks sprinted out to a 7-2 lead before the two teams swapped the lead six times and tied the game three times. After Lawson tied it at 19, Mississippi State built a five-point lead on a bucket by Nick Weatherspoon.
But each time MSU built a lead, the Gamecocks came storming right back. Tre Campbell tied the game at 30 with two free throws before Aric Holman hit a three and Quinndary Weatherspoon scored to put the Bulldogs back up by five.
But Silva’s dunk with 3:10 remaining in the half sparked an 11-2 run to put Carolina back in front. Gravitt’s three with 1:24 left gave the Gamecocks a 39-37 lead and Haase closed the half with two free throws for a four-point lead.