Jones’ 18 leads Stetson to 63-56 upset of South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Christiaan Jones thought one day he might play for South Carolina. Instead, the Stetson junior handed his hometown school one of its most disappointing losses.
Jones, born in Columbia and a high school teammate of Gamecocks coach Frank Martin’s son, scored 18 points to lead the Hatters to their first win over an Southeastern Conference program in 15 years with a 63-56 victory on Monday.
Jones first came to South Carolina basketball camp as an 8-year-old. As a high schooler, he spent time at the Martin household as he and Brandon Martin played and excelled at Cardinal Newman.
“I wouldn’t say it was a dream, but it’s something I thought about,” Jones said about playing close to home. “At the end of the day, I’m where I need to be.”
And Stetson’s sure glad to have the steady 6-foot-5 guard.
Jones hit two 3-pointers and was 10-of-13 on free throws on the way to Stetson ending a four-game losing streak and beating its first SEC foe since defeating Georgia 56-52 on Dec. 29, 2004.
“I’ve been on both ends of this before,” said Donnie Jones, Stetson’s first-year coach who was assistant at Florida on two national championship squads in 2006 and 2007.
“We were just hoping if we could hang around and get lucky down the stretch, it would be an incredible win,” he said.
South Carolina had one such moment last time out, toppling defending national champ Virginia on the road. The Gamecocks hoped to carry some momentum forward in their final non-conference game this year.
“It shouldn’t have happened. It really shouldn’t,” said forward Maik Kotsar, who led South Carolina with 11 points.
South Carolina cut the Hatters’ 13-point second-half lead to 51-49 after Justin Minaya’s 3-pointer with 5:22 to play.
But Kenny Aninye hit two foul shots and Jahlil Rawley a 3-pointer to extend Stetson’s edge. The Gamecocks could not respond.
As disappointed as Martin was at his players, he was equally excited for Stetson’s coach and his son’s former teammate. Martin spent time after the game catching up with Jones’ family.
“I thought (Christiaan) deserved to play on this court before he graduated,” Martin said.
South Carolina had the past eight days off since stunning Virginia — and it showed.
The Gamecocks missed seven of eight shots as the Hatters took off on a 16-6 run midway through the opening half for a 28-19 lead.
Rawley began the surge with a basket, Rob Perry scored five points in the run and Jones hit two foul shots for the Hatters’ large lead.
South Carolina’s two double-digit scorers coming in, AJ Lawson and Jair Bolden, were held to a combined eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
THE BIG PICTURE
Stetson: The Hatters hadn’t played like a team capable of taking down a Power Five opponent. But the steadiness Stetson showed could serve them well with Atlantic Sun Conference play set to open later this week.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks certainly stubbed their toe in a big way in what figured to be a final tune up for SEC play. Instead, South Carolina must re-figure its rotation and best decide how to use its best player, Lawson, who played just 13 minutes.
South Carolina’s Martin was asked about Lawson’s lack of minutes and answered, “Would you have played him after seeing how he played?” earlier. Lawson is a 6-6 sophomore is some project as a first-round NBA draft pick.
His performance, though, has been inconsistent. He was instrumental in victories over Clemson and Virginia earlier this month, combining for 34 points. He was 2-of-10 shooting in a home loss to Houston three weeks ago.
Stetson’s 15-year run of at least one 3-pointer in a game ended last time out with an 0-17 showing from long range in a loss to Florida International. The Hatters quickly got a new one going on Rob Perry’s first of three threes less than six minutes in. Stetson was 7-of-17 from behind the arc against South Carolina.
Stetson starts Atlantic Sun Conference play at home against Lipscomb on Thursday night.
South Carolina begins SEC play at home against Florida on Jan. 7.