COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s Malik Cooke is grateful for sentiment, and tired of the situation.
Cooke graciously accepted Ohio State coach Thad Matta’s wishes and words of encouragement following the second-ranked Buckeyes’ 74-66 victory over the Gamecocks on Saturday.
The fifth-year senior wishes he and his teammates got more congratulation and less consolation.
Matta’s words were very humbling, Cooke said. “At the same time, we’re still trying to win now,” he continued. “I thank him for him his comments. We are trying to turn that corner here and I think we’re right on the verge of doing so.”
Cooke led the Gamecocks (4-6) with 21 points and picked up a nasty gash over his left eye in the second half. He spent several minutes having the cut glued shut, a stretch when Ohio State took advantage and built a 61-50 lead.
Cooke, the team’s only senior, wasn’t there to steady the players as he did through much of what had been a tightly contested game.
“Our guys didn’t have the same look” after Cooke left, Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn said.
Deshaun Thomas scored a career-high 30 points to lead Ohio State (10-1), which saw star forward Jared Sullinger leave with a foot injury in the first half.
Matta earned his 200th win at Ohio State coach.
CLEMSON 60, WINTHROP 40
In Clemson, S.C., Tanner Smith matched his career-high with 17 points and Clemson defeated Winthrop, snapping a two-game skid.
Andre Young added 15 points for the Tigers (5-4), who had a week layoff for exams following consecutive losses to South Carolina and Arizona.
Clemson led by four with 5 minutes remaining in the first half, and managed to hold Winthrop (4-7) to just four points over a span of 17 Eagles’ possessions.
Clemson opened the second half on a 12-0 run, and by the time Winthrop wing Andre Jones stopped the bleeding on a layup with 15:10 left, the Tigers still led 41-26.
Jones had 12 points for the Eagles, who shot 23.8 percent in the second half.