NEW YORK — One of the toughest things to watch is an athlete being taken off the court on a stretcher. Whether it's a teammate or a player from the other team, it's tough to watch.
South Carolina junior guard Brenton Williams injured his neck when he fell after being fouled. His neck was placed in a brace, he was put on a backboard and taken to a hospital for evaluation. A school spokeswoman said he was moving all his extremities.
"You feel for the guy obviously and you feel bad but we had to finish the game," St. John's D'Angelo Harrison said after he led the Red Storm to an 89-65 victory Thursday night in the SEC-Big East Challenge. "You hope he gets well. When he came out I talked to coach Martin and said to tell him to get well soon and hopefully he does."
About an hour after the game the school announced that Williams was released from the hospital and would travel home with the team.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said after the game that he "didn't know a heck of a whole lot."
"I know what my trainers said after the game that he never lost feeling in his extremities and he had movement. Any time you're dealing with a neck situation that's God's send when you get that news," Martin said. "He had pain in the base of the neck. That's all I know."
Williams was fouled on a drive to the basket with 13:34 to play and the Gamecocks trailing 51-41. Williams finished with 10 points.
He drove the lane and was fouled by Phil Greene. As he was falling St. John's 6-foot-9, 223-pound freshmen forward Chris Obekpa also fell and landed on Williams.
"I didn't know what happened," Obekpa said. "Someone fouled him and I went to block the ball and he was there. When I tried to get up I had pain in my arms so I stayed down. When I went to get up I realized it was serious."
Harrison broke the 20-point mark for the sixth time in seven games this season, finishing with 26.
"I give credit to my teammates," Harrison said. "I made a couple of shots but I had so many easy layups and got to the free throw line. It wasn't me in a hot streak. It was me cutting and they found me and I made the layup. Anybody could have had 26 today."
Harrison, like his teammates and coach, wanted to talk about the other end of the court.
"We played good defense," Harrison said. "Holding them to 36 percent from the field, we feel we can win these games if we are a defensive team first."
The Red Storm (5-2) led 38-26 at halftime and pulled away over the final 10 minutes, leading by as many as 28 points in the final minutes.
Amir Garrett had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Red Storm while Phil Greene had 13 and JaKarr Sampson 11.
"Our defense has been pretty good but our defense today was really good," Garrett said. "When we want to take a little breather we go zone and when we want to pressure them we go to the man."
The Red Storm, who were coming off a season-high 55 percent from the field in the last game against Florida Gulf Coast, shot 56.9 percent (33 for 58) against the Gamecocks. Harrison was 8 of 13, including 3 of 6 from 3-poiunt range, while Garrett was 7 of 8 from the field.
"I think there were some stretches where we played good basketball and naturally there was also some poor play but I think big picture we're making some progress," Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said. "We held them to 36 percent shooting and we did it with changing defenses."
Michael Cabrera had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Gamecocks (5-2), who were playing their first true road game of the season.
"I can tell you we were disheartened and that's how we played the rest of the game," Martin said of Williams' injury. "I won't sit here and tell you that the injury affected us. We should be ashamed if it did. St. John's just kind of made us go away and we went away before the 40 minutes expired."
Bruce Ellington, a running back for the South Carolina football team, made his season debut against St. John's and had seven points on 3-for-10 shooting — missing all four 3-point attempts — in 29 minutes.
"He's had a day and a half of practice," Martin said. "I don't care how much film you watch, it's different out there. He did some things to help today but he hasn't had any time with us."