South Carolina took their talents on the road tonight in hopes of pulling off the road victory over LSU and got a key performance from Bruce Ellington to drive the Gamecocks to victory 64-56. Ellington finished the night with 20 points, his first double-digit scoring game since Arkansas in mid-January, and kept the Gamecocks out front all night long. Several times USC built up double-digit leads to see it evaporate with some gritty play from a young LSU team but our star freshman point guard found a way to score and it helped carrying the Gamecocks into the win column. Ellington scored 13 points in the second half with 8 coming in the first 5 minutes.
USC saw Lakeem Jackson return to the starting lineup tonight and also saw Brian Richardson start the game off on the bench for the first time all season. Coach Horn said Richardson was benched due to lack of hustle and not the shooting woes the freshman currently is in. He did make up for it at times in this game and hit some baskets and finished with 8 points and went 2-4 from 3-point range. Malik Cooke continued his solid campaign with the Gamecocks by adding 12 points off the bench and has really added a veteran leader off the bench who can do the little things.
A big part of tonight's success was USC's ability to hit the free throw. South Carolina is last in the SEC in free throw percentage but the Gamecocks finished a cool 14-17 for an 82.4% that really helped put those extra points on the board. Every single one was needed and it definitely was a boost to victory. USC was outrebounded by LSU 31-29 even though they are the SEC's leading team in rebounds per game with an average close to 40 an outing.
Tonight's game easily could have gotten away from the Gamecocks but it's a win and it's much needed. The Gamecocks continue a crucial road stretch that sees them play every team in the SEC East upcoming and if they hope to make it a worthwhile season then this young team needs to grow up fast.
South Carolina travels to Vanderbilt to take on the Commodores this Saturday at 1:30 on the SEC Network.