CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)AJ Lawson scored 20 points off four 3-pointers and led South Carolina to its first victory over rival Clemson in four years with a 67-54 win on Sunday.
Lawson had just 10 points a week ago in the Gamecocks’ home loss to Houston and coach Frank Martin criticized the sophomore’s defense. In South Carolina’s first game since, Lawson was active and dynamic all over the court in helping win at the Tigers’ Littlejohn Coliseum for the first time since 2011.
Lawson had six rebounds to go along with three steals and three assists for South Carolina (7-4). And he helped the Gamecocks take control with a 14-2 run early in the second half.
Keyshawn Bryant tied things at 29-all with a foul shot, then put South Carolina ahead to stay with two more free throws. Lawson followed with a basket and by the time Alanzo Frink made two more from the line with 11 minutes left, the Gamecocks were ahead 42-31.
Clemson cut the margin to six points on freshman Chase Hunter’s 3-pointer, but Jair Bolden and Lawson hit back-to-back triples to restore South Carolina’s double-digit lead.
Aamir Simms had team highs with 21 points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the final two minutes for the Tigers (5-5), who have lost four straight and fell to 1-5 this season against Power Five conference opponents.
Lawson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who’s a potential first-round NBA draft pick next season, got going in a hurry and helped the Gamecocks build a six-point lead midway through the opening half.
South Carolina was still up 24-19 on Lawson’s 3-pointer with less than five minutes left in the period. That’s when Clemson took off on a 7-0 run to retake the lead, a surge that was started by Simms’ three-point play.
Trae Hannibal had a hammer dunk and Alanzo Frink a driving layup to put the Gamecocks ahead 28-26 after a sloppy first half.
The teams’ combined for 29 turnovers the first 20 minutes.
Clemson shot less than 30 percent for the game (14-of-50) and had a season-high 22 turnovers.
THE BIG PICTURE
South Carolina: The Gamecocks needed their best player to play like their best player and Lawson did that once more. When South Carolina has Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant playing together and in transition, it will make things difficult for Southeastern Conference opponents when league play begins.
Clemson: The Tigers have struggled to make shots and score points much of the season. The team’s problems – the Tigers went about four minutes without a basket in South Carolina’s take-charge second half run – will continue if Clemson can’t find a way to keep pace when opponents get going.
South Carolina plays another ACC opponent at defending national champion Virginia on Sunday.
Clemson remains at home to play Jacksonville on Friday night.
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