South Carolina forward Mindaugas Kacinas (25) shoots over South Carolina forward Laimonas Chatkevicius (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament, Thursday, March 12, 2015,
Mark Humphrey
March 13, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A night that was mostly a statistical disaster for South Carolina somehow ended happily because Tyrone Johnson executed a final play just as Gamecocks coach Frank Martin envisioned.

Several seconds after Jarvis Summers' four-point play put Mississippi ahead 58-57, Johnson took Laimonas Chatkevicius' inbounds pass and took a couple of dribbles past midcourt and prepared to launch a desperation 3-pointer that realistically had no chance with two Mississippi players contesting it.

But Johnson drew contact from LaDarius White with 0.7 seconds left and went to the line for three free throws that he calmly made to give South Carolina a wild 60-58 victory Thursday night in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Martin never had a doubt something could happen. Johnson certainly didn't flinch with the ball in his hands.

''My job was just to get the ball off,'' said Johnson, who went 5 for 5 for his only points in the game. ''I saw that it was about 1.3 seconds on the clock and I saw him coming in hard and I just jumped up and he fouled me. ...

''That was my job. Just ice the free throws and we won the game.''

White didn't think it was a foul, but said when he heard the whistle that his thought was ''fail. That's it. Failure.''

Stefan Moody's desperation shot that followed wasn't close and came too late for the No. 6 seed Rebels, whose postseason chances took a hit.

The 11th-seeded Gamecocks (17-15) advanced to face No. 3 seed Georgia in Friday's quarterfinal.

''So, so proud of the guys that wear the garnet and black,'' Martin said. ''Just their fight, their resolve, their unwillingness to give in regardless of the situations that the game presented to us.''

Michael Carrera scored 16 points, Duane Notice added 15 and Sindarius Thornwell 10 for South Carolina, which won on a ragged night in which both teams shot 30 percent.

In fact, free throws were more the story than baskets on each bench.

That was just fine for the Gamecocks, who made three more from the line (20) than the field (17) and kept their season alive with their third straight win.

White led Mississippi (20-12) with 17 points while Summers added 15 with 8-of-8 shooting from the foul line. The Rebels made 19 of 23 free throws compared to 16 of 53 field-goal attempts.

Mississippi had looked to rebound after dropping its regular-season finale to Vanderbilt but often played catch-up against South Carolina and kept missing numerous chances to go ahead before Summers' miracle shot with 3.3 seconds left that was upheld on review. His free throw seemed to provide an amazing finish before Johnson forced the action and got free throws that won the game for the Gamecocks.

''We have now taken destiny out of our own hands, and so now we just have to wait and see what the other teams that are in the equation have done,'' Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said.

Mississippi lost despite outrebounding South Carolina 44-33 while its bench outscored the Gamecocks 25-7. But 21 turnovers ultimately hurt the Rebels as South Carolina converted those mistakes into 19 points.

But the ending typified a game in which no lead was certain.

Mississippi trailed 26-16 with just under three minutes left in the first half but rallied within 27-24 at halftime. Even after South Carolina seemed poised for another double-digit lead early in the second half, the Rebels finally went ahead as White scored five straight points down the stretch.

Just when Summers seemed to seal the comeback, Johnson snatched it back for the Gamecocks.

TIP-INS

Mississippi: The Rebels committed 15 first-half turnovers leading to 14 South Carolina points.

South Carolina: Thornwell, a 73 percent free-throw shooter, missed three first-half attempts after being fouled behind the arc. But he scored five straight points nearly a minute apart late to keep the Gamecocks ahead.

UP NEXT

Mississippi: Waiting on NCAA/NIT bid.

South Carolina: Faces Georgia on Friday.

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