Gaines recorded his second 20-plus scoring night of the season, one that saw him score the first seven points for the Gamecocks (12-5, 4-2 Ohio Valley Conference), but his biggest shot was the key in a win on a night in which leading scorer Darion Rackley sat because of a hand injury suffered in Saturday’s practice.
Gaines and junior Brian Williams shouldered the load without Rackley, combining for 38 points and both driving the Gamecocks for stretches during the win over a Panthers (3-15, 0-5 OVC) team that seemed determined to snap a 10-game losing streak.
Williams added 16 points, 12 in the second half, and scored eight in a row at one point in the second half to keep JSU in a back-and-forth battle that saw 11 ties and eight lead changes.
He also set up shots for his teammates, dishing seven assists just two days after an eight-assists outing at SIU-Edwardsville. He had five rebounds.
The Gamecocks wrap up their three-game road swing on Thursday at Tennessee State in Nashville. Tipoff against the first place team in the OVC’s East Division is set for 7 p.m. at the Gentry Center.