COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)Meechie Johnson hit six 3-pointers and finished with 25 points – both career bests – and freshman Gregory Jackson II added 12 points and a season-high 16 rebounds to help South Carolina beat Western Kentucky 65-58 Thursday night.
Hayden Brown scored 11 points but shot just 3 of 11 from the field and 0 for 6 from 3-point range for South Carolina (6-6). The Gamecocks shot 34% (22 of 64) from the field and made just 12 of 25 (48%) from the free-throw line but hit nine 3-pointers and outrebounded Western Kentucky 51-31.
Emmanuel Akot hit a 3-pointer that capped an 9-0 run and gave Western Kentucky a 49-44 lead midway through the second half but the Hilltoppers went without a made field goal for the next 7-plus minutes. Jacobi Wright answered with a 3 and Johnson hit another in a 15-2 spurt that culminated when Johnson converted a traditional three-point play that gave South Carolina a 10-point lead with 2:15 remaining.
Dayvion McKnight scored 28 points with eight rebounds and three steals for Western Kentucky (8-3). The 6-foot-1 junior was 10-of-16 shooting – 0 for 5 from 3-point range – and is averaging 28.3 points on 61.8% shooting over the last three games.
The Hilltoppers shot 36% (20 of 55), made just 3 of 22 (14%) behind the arc and hit 15 of 25 from the foul line.
Jamarion Sharp scored six points before Luke Frampton hit a 3-pointer to cap Western Kentucky’s 11-2 opening run as the Gamecocks made just one of their first 10 field-goal attempts. Johnson hit two 3-pointers and Chico Carter Jr. added another 3 as South Carolina responded with a 12-2 spurt to take a 14-13 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half.
The Hilltoppers, who had their five-game win streak snapped with a 93-84 loss at Louisville on Dec. 14, have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Western Kentucky opens its Conference USA slate at home against Rice on Dec. 29
South Carolina is off until Eastern Michigan visits on Dec. 30
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