Cooke carries Gamecocks to victory over USC Upstate

Malik Cooke scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as host South Carolina fought off pesky South Carolina Upstate for a 72-66 victory Saturday.

USC Upstate went on a 16-2 run – eight by Torrey Craig – early in the second half to take a 47-46 lead. But Cooke made key plays down the stretch and the Gamecocks (7-6) made their free throws to survive.

Brenton Williams had 11 points and R.J. Slawson added 10 points and eight rebounds for South Carolina.

Craig had 20 points – 16 in the second half – to lead USC Upstate (8-6), coached by former South Carolina assistant Eddie Payne.

South Carolina was playing without point guard Bruce Ellington, who is preparing to play for the Gamecocks’ football team in the Capital One Bowl Jan. 2.

The Gamecocks shot 60 percent in the opening 20 minutes and led by as much as 12 before settling for a 40-31 halftime advantage. Cooke was 5-for-8 from the field for 10 points to lead South Carolina in the first half.

Ty Greene led the USC Upstate, from the Atlantic Sun, with eight of his 11 points in the first half.

South Carolina has beaten the Spartans in all three meetings.

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