COLUMBIA, S.C. - Vincent Krieger took care of the first half, Josh Pittman took care of the second, and North Carolina Asheville easily took care of South Carolina on Thursday night.
Krieger scored 12 points before the break as the Bulldogs (2-3) of the Big South led 37-30. Pittman scored 23 of his career-high 31 points the rest of the way and helped his team hold on for a 80-74 victory, its first ever against a Southeastern Conference club.
"All year long we've been putting together some good second halves," Pittman said. "We figured if we put together a good first half and play like we played the second half at Kansas, we should be in the game and have a chance to win at the end."
The Bulldogs' only previous win was against Montreat College, an NAIA school. But Pittman said they gained confidence from their final 20 minutes in a 32-point loss Sunday to the nation's No. 1 team, Kansas, scoring 50 points, the most allowed by the Jayhawks this season.
Krieger came into the South Carolina game with 25 points on the season, but scored a career-high 24 against the Gamecocks (4-4).
"To tell you the truth, before I came here, I played like this all the time," said Krieger, a junior from The Netherlands. "Now, with scorers like Josh, my main job is to distribute the ball."
But while Pittman was bottled up in the first half, Krieger found his touch, slashing to the goal to make 6 of 7 shots.
Pittman came to life after the break and at one point had outscored the Gamecocks all by himself, 21-18. By then the Bulldogs led 67-48 with six minutes to go.
South Carolina closed to 76-70 with 35 seconds left, but could not overcome cold shooting from guards BJ McKie, Melvin Watson and Larry Davis. The three, who came in averaging 46 points, finished 10-of-30 for 31 points.
Krieger made the sign of the cross during the Gamecocks' charge. "I was just hoping we'd hold on," he said. "It doesn't hurt to ask for help."
He hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final three minutes.
North Carolina Asheville jumped on the Gamecocks by making five of its first eight shots.
Even after South Carolina came back from a six-point deficit to tie it at 25, Robert Stevenson converted a dunk - his fourth of the half - off a missed free throw, Krieger had two driving layups, and Pittman hit two free throws.
Tuesday night, South Carolina made only 12 field goals in a 58-39 home loss to No. 8 Clemson, and coach Eddie Fogler benched McKie, Davis and Watson from the start.
But the changes didn't help as the Gamecocks started off hitting only two of 11 and continued a string of missed 3-pointers that eventually grew to 17 in a row.
"We obviously aren't very good right now," Fogler said. "We need to work on a lot of different things."
Most importantly may be shooting. South Carolina hit for 26 percent this week against Clemson and barely bettered that this time, making 26 of 67 (38 percent).
South Carolina has lost three straight games - the first two to the ACC's North Carolina and Clemson. But the Gamecocks have also had trouble with teams from the Big South. They lost to Coastal Carolina in 1993 and Campbell in 1994.
It was North Carolina Asheville's first victory in 13 games against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
"I'm real proud of our players," first-year coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "I think tonight we learned how to win coming down the stretch."
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