COLUMBIA — A little over a week ago, the Clemson football team lost its fourth consecutive game to South Carolina, keeping the recent theme of Gamecock dominance going through many of the rivalry's athletics.
Coming into Sunday, the Tiger basketball squad, which had lost its last two meetings to USC, used that as a rallying cry when it went down to Columbia.
"We just talked before the game how we were going to change the Clemson and South Carolina rivalry," Clemson point guard Rod Hall said. "We had an opportunity to be the first to win since football had a chance and blew it."
The Tigers put a loss earlier in the week to Purdue — and the two-game suspension of starter Milton Jennings — behind them to play one of their better defensive games of the season in a 64-55 victory over South Carolina.
"Just really proud of my team," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "We had some adversity this week, showed a lot of toughness and grit, finding a way to win."
Clemson (5-2) led by a point at halftime and trailed by as many as three early in the second half before locking down on defense and hitting key free throws the rest of the game. Brownell was pleased with how his team kept USC from taking 3s and the way his younger players performed in a tough road environment.
There were 10,684 fans in attendance; many came to see Steve Spurrier and several South Carolina football players recognized for beating the Tigers a week earlier.
The Gamecocks (5-3), who lost for the second consecutive game, shot just 34.6 percent from the field and struggled protecting the ball.
"We continue to battle and find the personality of our team," USC coach Frank Martin said. "It's hard to win against anybody when you continue to turn the ball over 20 times and you're inept on offense."
Clemson's K.J. McDaniels and USC's Brenton Williams each scored 16 points to lead all scorers. Hall chipped in 15 points and hit 9-of-12 free throws, many coming down the stretch when the Tigers needed them most.
"He likes to make winning plays," Brownell said about Hall. "He's a tough player. He's not afraid to put his shoulder down and drive it to the basket and play through contact."
He also defended USC's Bruce Ellington most of the game. The two-sport Gamecock star posted 12 points, three rebounds and one steal off the bench a week after catching two touchdowns in South Carolina's 27-17 win in football.
"I always want to beat them, but you can't win them all," Ellington said about the rivalry. "I'm frustrated and mad, but I've just got to worry about next week (against Jacksonville)."
The Tigers took the Gamecocks out of the game early in the second half. After a 20-7 USC run that carried over from the first half saw the Gamecocks take their first lead of the game at 29-28 since 1-0, Clemson answered by getting the ball to McDaniels and Devin Booker, who combined for nine of the Tigers' next 11 points that gave them a 41-33 lead with 13:12 to play.
USC answered with 3-pointer by Mindaugas Kacinas, but the Tigers went on an 8-1 run over the next two and a half minutes to match their largest lead of 12 with 9:08 remaining in the game. The Gamecocks got back within four on an Ellington jumper with 4:10 to play, but Damarcus Harrison drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 3:06 left that gave Clemson enough confidence to close out the win, despite a first half in which the Tigers built a 12-point lead that USC was able to erase.
"I thought we had a very good stretch in the first half, played really well," Brownell said. "Then South Carolina made a nice run at half and then we gathered ourselves really well and played well in the second half. We won an important game so it was good for us."