COLUMBIA, S.C. — Freshman A.J. Lawson stole the ball and finished with an emphatic dunk with 13 seconds left in overtime to seal South Carolina’s 87-82 upset of No. 14 Mississippi State on Tuesday night.
Maik Kotsar scored a career-high 25 points and had nine rebounds for the Gamecocks (7-7, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), who were the only SEC team with a losing record in nonconference play but now sit atop the league.
Lawson, who came in as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 13 points a game, scored just six points on 3-of-11 shooting. But he may have turned around what appeared to be a lost season for South Carolina with his steal and dunk as the Bulldogs (12-2, 0-1) tried to get a potential game-tying 3.
Kotsar came up big in overtime too, with a mid-range jumper with 42.1 seconds to go that put South Carolina ahead 85-82.
Hassani Gravett added 17 points and Chris Silva had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Gamecocks.
Aric Holman had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Mississippi State. Nick Weatherspoon scored 17 points, and Lamar Peters had 16 points and seven assists.
Mississippi State trailed 61-54 with just under 12 minutes to go, but climbed back in it with some timely 3s. Both teams had good looks to take the lead late in regulation.
Silva had a rebound just under the basket slip out of his hands with 30 seconds to go in regulation. Peters missed a tough running layup with 5 seconds left, and Gravett’s half-court heave at the buzzer rolled around the rim before falling away.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs shot well from behind the arc as they often have this season, making 11 of 25 attempts. But Mississippi State made just 13 of 23 free throws, while South Carolina shot 13 of 17 from the foul line.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have lost to Stony Brook and Wofford this season, which appeared to be slipping away. But South Carolina overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to beat Florida on a full-court heave and dunk by Silva and followed that up with an overtime thriller to become the surprise 2-0 team in the SEC.
Mississippi State’s ranking was its highest since reaching No. 11 in January 2005. The Bulldogs will likely fall next week, but their streak of consecutive weeks in the poll should reach 13.
It was South Carolina’s first win in three tries this season over a Top 25 team.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs get in-state rival Mississippi at home Saturday.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks host Missouri on Saturday.