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South Carolina gets past Western Kentucky

Dec 22, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (31) and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers center Jamarion Sharp (33) battle for a rebound in the first half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Meechie Johnson scored a career-high 25 points to lead South Carolina to a 65-58 victory over Western Kentucky on Thursday at Columbia, S.C.

Freshman Gregory “GG” Jackson added 12 points and a season-high 16 rebounds for the Gamecocks (6-6).

Johnson shot 8 of 16 from the field, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range, to go along with six rebounds, while Jackson hit only 4 of 14 from the floor, including 1 of 3 from distance. Hayden Brown added 11 points and five rebounds.

The Gamecocks shot 22 of 64 (34.4 percent) from the field, including 9 of 28 (32.1 percent) from 3-point range, but went a woeful 12 of 25 from the free-throw line. South Carolina, which ended a two-game slide, outrebounded the Hilltoppers 51-31, including 17-5 on the offensive end.

Western Kentucky (8-3), which has dropped two straight after a five-game winning streak, was led by Dayvion McKnight’s game-high 28 points and eight rebounds. Jamarion Sharp finished with 10 points and five rebounds.

The Hilltoppers shot 20 of 55 (36.4 percent) from the field, including an abysmal 3 of 22 (13.6 percent) from beyond the arc. Western Kentucky also struggled at the free-throw line, making just 15 of 25 attempts.

The Hilltoppers took a 49-44 lead when Emmanuel Akot’s 3-pointer capped a 9-0 run with 9:43 remaining, but the Gamecocks responded with a decisive 10-0 run, going up 54-49 lead following Johnson’s 3-pointer with seven minutes to go.

Johnson’s three-point play extended the edge to 61-51 with 2:15 remaining.

After trailing 11-2, South Carolina countered with a 28-13 run to take a 30-24 lead following Jackson’s 3-pointer with 2:21 in the half.

Johnson scored 15 points and Jackson just missed a first-half double-double with nine points and nine assists in the first 20 minutes for South Carolina, which led 34-32 at halftime.

The Gamecocks shot 12 of 36 (33.3 percent) from the field before the break, including 7 of 20 (35 percent) from beyond the arc.

Western Kentucky was led by McKnight’s 13 first-half points.

The Hilltoppers shot 11 of 26 (42.3 percent) from the field prior to halftime, including 2 of 10 (20 percent) from distance.

–Field Level Media