COLUMBIA - After getting off to a 4-7 start, the University of South Carolina basketball team has turned it around in a big way.
The Gamecocks have now won four in a row and started Southeastern Conference play at a perfect 3-0 after defeating Missouri 85-75 on Sunday at Colonial Life Arena in a game that was rescheduled from Saturday afternoon due to weather conditions that prevented the Tigers from flying to Columbia on Friday night.
The win streak also includes impressive victories over the Florida Gators on the road and then No. 14 Mississippi State at home.
The Gamecocks made the Final Four the last time they started conference play 3-0, in the 2016-17 season. No one's making any prediction of that sort for this group, but USC head coach Frank Martin likes the progress his team is making.
"We got young guys, we work every day," Martin said. "Becoming a good team, it's not like a light switch. You don't just walk in one day and say, 'You know what, I'm tired of losing. Let me turn the lights on'. That's not how it works."
The Gamecocks were up on the Tigers 42-36 at halftime.
Missouri made it close late when freshman guard Javon Pickett made a 3-point shot with 3:13 to go in the game to cut South Carolina's lead to 73-70.
However, South Carolina sophomore forward Felipe Haase hit a 3-pointer with 2:44 left to give the Gamecocks a 76-70 lead. Freshman guard A.J. Lawson hit a 3-pointer as well to give the Gamecocks a 79-70 lead with 2:06 to go.
Haase and redshirt senior guard Hassani Gravett both hit their free throws down the stretch to salt the game away.
Freshman forward Keyshawn Bryant led the team in scoring with 15, and senior forward Chris Silva and Haase both added 14.
"I just did what I gotta do," Silva said. "Go out there and play the way I usually play, with emotion and passion, that's it. We all help each other in practice; I mean, I'll be doing some mistakes and they help me, and whenever I can, I help them. We just talk to each other and try to hold each other accountable, that's it."
Pickett led Missouri in scoring with 21, and sophomore guard Mark Smith and senior guard Jordan Geist both added 14.
The loss dropped the Tigers to 9-5 overall and 0-2 in SEC play.
"It's good to be 3-0 (in SEC play)," Bryant said. "But after every win, we look for the next game and try and get another win."
The Gamecocks will travel to Nashville on Wednesday to take on Vanderbilt. The Commodores have lost all three of their SEC games so far.
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