— COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Frank Martin doesn't mind crediting a little divine intervention for a 67-66 win Saturday over Alabama that gave his Gamecocks back-to-back Southeastern Conference wins for the first time in three seasons.
Mindaugas Kacinas tipped in a miss with 16.6 seconds left to put South Carolina (10-15, 3-9) ahead two, and then Trevor Releford's go-ahead 3-point attempt lodged between the rim and backboard with 5.8 seconds to go. That's a jump ball and the possession arrow was in the Gamecocks favor.
Martin stole a line from South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier after the game. "I guess the good Lord was looking down on the Gamecocks tonight," Martin said.
Releford scored 25 of his 27 points in the second half pulling the Crimson Tide (10-15, 4-8) back from a 12-point second half deficit, but what happened to his most important shot was another blow of bad karma in a season of struggles.
"We got the look we wanted. Of all the things that could happen, the ball got stuck like that and we don't get a chance at least for an offensive rebound," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.
Kacinas' tip-in only mattered because Sindarius Thornwell kept South Carolina from collapsing. Alabama went on a 35-19 run over 13 minutes in the second half. The run started with free throws — at one point Alabama hit 10 in a row on five possessions — and ended with a 3-pointer by Releford, a 3 by Shannon Hale and another 3 by Releford that put the Crimson Tide up 60-56 with 3:57 left.
But Michael Carrera stopped the run with a layup on a lob. Then Thornwell took over with a short jumper, a free throw and a floater on a drive that put South Carolina ahead 63-62 with a minute left. The freshman finished with 22 points and has scored 20 or more points in five SEC games.