Carrera leads South Carolina to 78-64 victory

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina coach Frank Martin needed someone - anyone - to choke off Alabama's second-half comeback. Michael Carrera was ready for the moment.

Carrera had 20 points and 11 rebounds, including a critical 3-pointer with less than five minutes left that lifted the Gamecocks to a 78-64 victory over the Crimson Tide on Saturday night.

Alabama (11-9, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) had cut a 15-point deficit to 67-61 as Retin Obasohan scored 14 straight points in a sloppy South Carolina stretch. That's when Carrera took a way-too-long 3-pointer which rattled in to put the Gamecocks on top 70-61 with 3:15 left.

''I knew we needed a score,'' Carrera said. ''He kind of fell and I let it go. And thank God, I made it.''

The basket seemed to rattle the Crimson Tide as well. They made just one basket the rest of the way as South Carolina (19-2, 6-2) matched its best start since the 1969-70 team also opened 19-2.

If South Carolina's going to keep going forward - it hasn't reached 20 wins since 2008-09 and hadn't made the NCAA tournament since 2003-04 - it's Carrera who's going to lead them. He had a career-high 34 points in beating Mississippi State this past Tuesday night and notched his fifth double-double this season.

''He's a fun player to watch,'' Alabama coach Avery Johnson said of Carrera. ''On video, not when you're on the sideline.''

Carrera scored 16 of his points in the second half

Obasohan had 23 points for the Crimson Tide before fouling out in the final minute. Two other teammates fouled out as Alabama was called for 30 fouls in a physical contest.

''They were the aggressors and they were rewarded,'' Johnson said.

Sindarius Thornwell had 14 points and Chris Silva 12 for South Carolina.

South Carolina looked like it had this one sewn up after Carrera's foul shot gave the Gamecocks a 60-45 lead with less than 10 minutes left. That's when Obasohan went on a tear for the Crimson Tide with 14 points in a row. When he passed to open teammate Shannon Hale for an easy bucket, Alabama trailed just 67-61. Again, it was Carrera who came through, this time with a long 3-pointer to restore the Gamecocks comfortable lead.

Alabama could not recover. Hale finished with 16 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

South Carolina relied on defense to stay out in front early on. Carrera's 3-pointer put the Gamecocks ahead for good, 22-20 with 8:12 left. Alabama missed 10 of its final 12 shots of the half to fall behind 35-26 at the break.

South Carolina overcame dreadful first-half foul shooting to build the lead. The Gamecocks, eighth in SEC free-throw shooting at 67.4 percent, were just 9 of 19 the first 20 minutes.

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TIP-INS

Alabama: The Crimson Tide have done well this season against Palmetto State teams, going 3-0 against opponents based in South Carolina before the loss on Saturday. Alabama topped Clemson 51-50 and Winthrop 72-60 in back-to-back games this past December. The Crimson Tide also defeated the Gamecocks 73-50 back on Jan. 13.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won 12 games at home so far this season, their most since winning 16 at Colonial Life Arena in 2008-09. That's also the last season South Carolina won as many games as it has this year, going 21-10. ... The game was the seventh men's basketball sell-out at the 18,000-seat arena, which opened in 2002-03 season.

VERY FOUL SHOOTING

Not everything went well for South Carolina, which was just 28 of 46 from the foul line against the Crimson Tide. Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said his team must improve. ''I don't usually make guys run for free throws, but we may start doing that because we're going to end up losing a game because of missed free throws,'' Martin said.

THE NORRIS RULES

Riley Norris was a big reason why Alabama ended South Carolina's 15-0 start earlier this month, making eight 3-pointers for a career high 27 points in a 73-50 win at Alabama three weeks ago. This time, Norris was tracked by Michael Carrera much of the time and struggled to make shots. He was 4 of 12 overall and 3 of 7 from behind the arc, finishing with 11 points.

UP NEXT

Alabama plays at Mississippi State on Tuesday night.

South Carolina starts a two-game road trip at Georgia on Tuesday night.

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