COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — John Petty Jr. scored 20 points and No. 11 Alabama held off South Carolina 81-78 on Tuesday night to bounce back from its first Southeastern Conference loss of the season.
The Crimson Tide (16-5, 11-1 SEC) were off to their best league start in 65 years before falling to 10th-ranked Missouri this past Saturday. But behind Petty's first 20-point game in six contests, Alabama won its sixth straight over the Gamecocks (5-8, 3-6).
Not that it was easy.
Justin Minaya cut South Carolina's deficit to 79-78 with 2 seconds left, but James Rojas was quickly fouled and made both free throws to seal the victory.
Keyshawn Bryant's desperation court-length inbounds pass was picked off by Alabama's Keon Ellis as time ran out.
AJ Lawson led the Gamecocks with 21 points, making five 3-pointers.
The Gamecocks had their chances. Wildens Leveque tied it at 59 with 11:11 left before Alabama went ahead for good on Jaden Shackelford's layup on the following possession. Jahvon Quinerly extended the lead with a jumper.
The Gamecocks scratched back within 65-64 on Lawson's 3-pointer and a foul shot by Bryant. But Petty, the team leader in made 3s, hit another from behind the arc and South Carolina could not rally, losing for the third time in its past four games.
Alabama, which fell behind by 22 points to Missouri before losing 68-65, trailed South Carolina 16-5 with less than five minutes elapsed.
That's when the long-range shooting of Petty and Joshua Primo got Alabama back in contention. Primo, a 6-foot-6 freshman, had totaled seven points combined in his last three games with only one 3-pointer. This time, he hit three of his team's six 3s in the first 20 minutes and had 10 points at the break.
Quinerly finished with 13 points for the Tide while Petty added eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Alabama freshman Juwan Gary, who is from Columbia, landed hard on his left shoulder early in the half and went to the locker room. He did not return to the court.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide have shown grit and depth while building a sizeable lead in the SEC. They will be difficult for chasers Missouri and Tennessee, both with six league wins, to run down with only six games left. Alabama won its last regular-season title in 2002.
South Carolina: Point guard Seventh Woods ran into foul trouble in both halves, and without the North Carolina transfer's steady hand, South Carolina struggled to find open shots.
Alabama plays Georgia at home on Saturday.
South Carolina hosts Mississippi on Saturday night.
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