AMHERST, Mass. (AP) – AJ Lawson scored 24 points, Jermaine Couisnard added 16 and six assists and South Carolina held off Massachusetts 84-80 in its first true road game of the season on Wednesday night.
South Carolina (6-3) won five of its first six in Columbia, S.C., but lost both neutral site games in the Cancun Challenge in late November before returning home to beat George Washington 74-65 on Sunday.
Keyshawn Bryant contributed 13 points while Gamecocks senior Malik Kotsar grabbed nine rebounds and scored nine points, ending his career-best run of double-figure scoring games at five.
Tre Mitchell led the Minutemen with 17 points, Sean East II had 16 and T.J. Weeks 15. Carl Pierre added 15 points and nine rebounds.
UMass (5-4) lost its fourth in a row after opening the season with five straight wins. The Minutemen haven’t beaten a Southeastern Conference opponent since a 72-62 victory over Georgia on Dec. 16, 2017.
Minutemen leading scorer Weeks, who entered averaging 15.5 points per game, was held to four in the second half after scoring 11 in the first. UMass shot 46.9% (23 of 49) against a South Carolina defense that was ranked 22nd in opponent field goal percentage (36.6 percent) coming in. After recovering from a slow start to lead 39-35 at halftime, the Gamecocks struggled to separate from the Minutemen for most of period two.
Sy Chatman’s layup with 13:53 remaining capped a 7-0 run to give UMass its last lead at 50-47 before Jalyn McCreary’s jumper and four straight points from Couisnard restored South Carolina’s lead. Samba Diallo’s 3-pointer for UMass tied the game at 61 with 8:44 left before a Lawson layup at 8:29 gave the Gamecocks the lead for good. Lawson’s trey with 2:40 to play capped a 17-6 surge to push the lead to 11.
Mass responded with a 13-4 run to pull within two on Pierre’s desperation 3 with 6.2 seconds left, but Lawson hit both free throws to seal it. The Gamecocks led by four after closing the first half on a 31-19 run.
Weeks scored eight of UMass’ first 16 as the Minutemen built an early eight-point lead. The Gamecocks looked out of rhythm early with Lawson’s missed 3 and turnovers on three of their first four possessions. Lawson’s floater capped a 10-0 run to give South Carolina its first lead at 20-19 with 6:37 left in the first. He scored eight straight over a three-minute span and all but two of his 13 first-half points in the final 8:15 of the period.
It was the third-ever meeting between South Carolina and UMass and the first in Amherst.
> South Carolina dominated inside with a season-high 52 points in the paint.
> The Gamecocks’ bench outscored the Minutemen’s, 42-14. Carolina’s reserves are averaging 24.7 points per contest this season.
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson notched his fourth 20-point outing of the season, finishing with a game-high 24 in 35 minutes of action.
> Sophomore wing Keyshawn Bryant made his 2019-20 season debut tonight, scoring 13 crucial points (5-for-9 FG) in 22 minutes of work.
> Redshirt freshman Jermaine Couisnard was a spark off the bench in the second half, pouring in 12 of his 16 points (ties career high) the final 20 minutes. He was vital against UMass’ full-court press, dishing out six assists (also ties career high).
> Senior forward Maik Kotsar finished with nine points and nine rebounds, snapping a career-best, five-game streak of scoring 10 or more.
> Carolina finished with a season-high 22 assists, while shooting a season-best 55 percent (33-for-50 FG) from the floor. The Gamecocks are 60-of-117 (51 percent) from the field the last two games.
Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena on Sunday when it will host Houston for a noon ET matchup. Richard Cross (play-by-play) and Daymeon Fishback (analyst) will have the call for the ESPNU broadcast against the Cougars.