Gamecocks Winners of Three Straight
Frank Martin’s 10th season at the helm of the South Carolina basketball program is well underway, and so far so good for the Gamecocks. They currently sit at 8-2 on the season and they have a couple of big wins over Georgetown and Florida State as well as a couple of the disappointing, mind-boggling, and utterly frustrating early season losses that have become so commonplace through Frank’s tenure so far – a 66-62 loss to Princeton and a 80-56 pummeling dealt by Coastal Carolina.
A quick glance over the roster will have most fans turning into owls as they read.. (“Who?”)
They returned just 3 starters from the 2020-2021 season in Jermaine Couisnard (who is currently injured. It is hopeful he may return in time for the Clemson game this Saturday), Keyshawn Bryant, and Wildens Leveque. But, those big 3 along with the contributions of grad transfer guard James Reese (has started all 10 games and has averaged 26.7 minutes played) and senior guard Erik Stevenson (also has started all 10 games averaging 23.7minutes) have worked well for the Gamecocks so far.
Stevenson leads the team in scoring with 108 points (and is a perfect 19 of 19 from the charity stripe). Wildens Leveque is a close 2nd with 105 points and has been quite a presence in the paint, shooting 69.5% inside. James Reese has been an incredible threat from behind the arch so far this season, going 21 of 50 (42 percent).
Erik Stevenson, Keyshawn Bryant, Wildens Leveque, and James Reese have also been anchors for South Carolina on defense through these first 10 games, combining for 44 steals and 23 blocked shots.
This past week saw the Gamecocks pick up 2 wins. They came back from an 18 point deficit a little over midway through the first half to knock off Florida State 66-65 in the No Room for Racism Classic in Rock Hill on Sunday. They also followed up that big win with, what seems like an average run-of-the mill “We did what we were supposed to” win Tuesday night over D-II Allen University. (More on why that is bigger than it appears on the surface in a bit)
Sunday against FSU, South Carolina got off to a really slow start on offense that really put them behind the 8-ball early on. Florida State did a great job of playing a tight zone and limiting the Gamecocks from being able to get many looks or run inside, while at the same time seemingly getting everything to fall for most of the half. The Seminoles shot 38.5% in the first half altogether while shooting 75% from the freethrow line. Over the final 6:30 of the 1st half, the game totally flipped on its head. The Noles went colder than ice, making only 1 basket over that time span, which allowed the Gamecocks to chip away.
South Carolina helped themselves over the final 7:00 of the half by adjusting well, switching to more of a 1 on 1 man defense, which helped them to force a lot of turnovers and misses, and worked their way back to where they only trailed by 6 at the half.
In the 2nd half, the Noles looked to have gotten back to their game plan, playing a wide zone and keeping Carolina from getting inside and forcing a lot of bad three point tries. But, that did not hold for long as the Gamecocks went on a run to go up 56-52 with around 8:30 to play and held on to win it after FSU took it down to the final shot, a 3 that just narrowly fell short.
Devin Carter led all Gamecock scorers with 16 points and 7 rebounds while James Reese tallied 13 points and Wildens Leveque had 10 points with 5 rebounds and an assist in the win.
On Tuesday night, Carolina laid the hammer on a struggling 0-8 division 2 team in Allen University, smacking them 110-51. Typically what you would expect from a significantly deeper and more talented D1 school playing a completely outmatched D2 school. But, this is somewhat significant for South Carolina. Why is that? They did what they were supposed to. Even if you don’t follow Gamecock basketball religiously, you know what they have become notorious for doing under Frank Martin.. Following up a big win with a terrible performance against a team they should not even struggle against with a loss or a “Struuugle wiiiiin” (as renowned college football fan and comedian FunnyMaine would say).
The Gamecocks never struggled in this one. They never relented, still slamming home dunks up nearly 50 points with under 2:00 to play. Have the Gamecocks had disappointments in the typical Frank Martin style this year? Yes. Twice. But, after 2 big wins over Georgetown and Florida State, this team absolutely dominated a team they were supposed to. I mean, 2 years ago, we feared they could struggle with D-2 North Greenville the way they had played in the early going. Here, they did exactly as expected against a division II opponent.
Here is what I am NOT saying. I am not saying this is an indicator of anything. I am just pointing out that South Carolina did something that they have not consistently been able to do of late. Maybe this is a good sign for this young team going forward, maybe it is not. Will there still be disappointment somewhere? Probably. That is the nature of things. But, they did follow up 2 big wins with a dominant win they were supposed to get. That is a huge positive.
Looking ahead, the Gamecocks will travel to take on Clemson this Saturday with tip off set for 8:00 PM, and will then host Army on Wednesday December 22nd at 3:00 PM.