COLUMBIA, S.C., March 24 -- South Carolina senior Carlos Powell ran around the gym with his arms outstretched like a little kid.
He had good reason to celebrate. Powell and the Gamecocks (18-13) are headed back to New York and Madison Square Garden for the National Invitation Tournament semifinals for the second time in four years after a 69-66 victory over Georgetown on Thursday.
South Carolina's Tre Kelley blows by Georgetown's Ashanti Cook during their NIT quarterfinal matchup.
(Perry Baker - AP)
"I thought Senior Day was my last time playing here," said Powell, whose 21 points led the Gamecocks. "There's a lot of people who were wishing they were playing right now."
Instead of ending the season losing five of its last six, South Carolina has turned things around and won three in a row. But the Gamecocks have needed a couple of last-second wins to stay alive in the NIT, and Thursday night was no different.
The Hoyas (19-13) had two chances to tie the game late but Darrel Owens and Jeff Green each missed three-pointers with less than 30 seconds remaining. Down by three with two seconds to go, a final Georgetown attempt from beyond midcourt was swatted out of bounds by Josh Gonner.
The Gamecocks held off a furious Georgetown rally in which Owens hit three three-pointers in the final 2 minutes 55 seconds. His four-point play cut South Carolina's lead to 64-63 with 47 seconds to go.
But Tre Kelley, who had 12 points in the second half and finished with seven assists, hit two free throws to put the Gamecocks back on top, 66-63, with 43 seconds to go.
Tarence Kinsey's free throw with 19 seconds left put South Carolina ahead 67-63. Antoine Tisby grabbed the offensive rebound on the second attempt, and the Gamecocks killed more time off the clock.
Brandon Bowman added a final three-pointer with three seconds remaining to cut the lead to 69-66 but the Hoyas just ran out of time.
"We knew coming in they were going to be a tough team," said Owens, who finished with a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds. He was 7 for 12 from behind the arc.
South Carolina will face the winner of Saturday's Texas Christian-Maryland game in the semifinals in New York. Saint Joseph's and Memphis will play in the other semifinal next Tuesday night.
It's South Carolina's second trip to Madison Square Garden under Coach Dave Odom.