South Carolina basketball was in action for its first public action against another team on Wednesday as the Gamecocks welcomed the Wofford Terriers to Colonial Life Arena for a charity exhibition. All proceeds from ticket sales went to the Maui Strong Fund to help with aid and rebuilding efforts after the wildfires in Maui.
The Gamecocks started a group that included just one starter from last season. Meechie Johnson was joined in the starting lineup by Ta’Lon Cooper, Myles Stute, BJ Mack, and Stephen Clark.
Four of those spots were expected. Only Clark was not a known starter as the position battle between Clark and Josh Gray was a close one. It is important to note that Collin Murray-Boyles missed the game (and will be out for a while) with a case of mono.
Wofford jumped out to a quick 17-4 lead (though Mack did score the first points for USC against his former team) as Chase Martin and Dillon Bailey combined to hit three early 3-point jumpers. Kyler Filewich also had 6 points in the early goings, and Lamont Paris took a timeout with his team trailing by 13.
Jacobi Wright, Josh Gray, and Morris Ugusuk were the first subs into the game. Ebrima Dibba and Zach Davis joined them shortly after, but the ugly play continued. Another deep ball brought the Wofford run to 16-0 before a Zach Davis putback dunk ended the bleeding. At 20-6 in favor of Wofford, just over 11:00 remained in the half.
South Carolina basketball started 3-15 from the field but allowed Wofford to begin the game shooting 8-15. 4-9 to 0-6 was the 3-point shooting margin, as well.
Coming out of the second timeout, Coach Paris switched from a man defense to a 1-3-1 zone. The change didn’t help. Thankfully for the home team, Wofford started missing some of the good looks that they found.
South Carolina’s shooting woes continued. Other than Mack’s 7 points on 3-4 shooting early, the Gamecocks shot 2-17 to start the game.
The 27-11 Wofford lead was built largely on the Gamecocks’ inability to get anything going offensively, but the USC defense wasn’t strong, either. Wofford found themselves with a lot of open looks in the first half, and Lamont Paris’ group only forced one Terrier turnover. Wofford also outrebounded the Gamecocks 16-13 in the first 14 minutes of play.
Stute hit the first 3-pointer for the garnet and black, and the end-of-half surge looked to be starting. Two quick Wofford turnovers helped the Gamecock cause, and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk picked up some hustle points with an offensive rebound and two made free throws.
Again, though, the Gamecocks got cold, and Wofford picked up a couple more buckets in the final minutes of the half. In the final minute, another Bailey deep ball extended the lead back to 17 points. At the buzzer, Wofford led 34-17 and outshot the Gamecocks 48.3% to 20% from the floor and 46.2% to 8.3% from 3.
After the intermission, Ta’Lon Cooper hit a 3-point jumper after a second-change opportunity, and after a few possessions, BJ Mack hit two more. The deficit shrunk to 34-26 as USC began the half with a 9-0 run. Two Chase Martin free throws and one from Kyler Filewich ended the drought, but the Gamecocks held the Terriers without a field goal for the first 5 minutes and 20 seconds.
A lack of scoring for the CourtCocks kept the white-clad home squad from coming all the way back in the early minutes of the second period, but a Zach Davis 3-pointer brought things to single-digits as the score stood 37-29 after about five post-halftime minutes ticked off the clock.
An and-one layup from Belal El Shakery was the first field goal make for Wofford, but he missed the free throw. The Gamecocks scored eight straight on two Jacobi Wright free throws, another Davis 3-point shot, and a Myles Stute long ball. All of a sudden, the 17-point deficit was cut to 2.
After two quick timeouts (both teams were scoreless in the meantime), South Carolina basketball drew even with Wofford on a midrange jumper from Jacobi Wright. The Gamecocks had outscored the Terriers 17-5 in the first nine minutes of the half.
South Carolina basketball’s first lead of the game come on a Morris Ugusuk 3-point field goal right at the mid-point of the half. Wofford retook a 45-43 lead a few moments later on a Jackson Sivills layup, and the teams exchanged buckets and stops with neither team earning more than a one-possession lead over the next few minutes.
Myles Stute and Zach Davis hit back-to-back jumpers (Davis’ was his third 3-pointer), and the Gamecocks led 55-50 with three minutes to go. With a three-point lead and just over 1 1/2 minutes left, Zach Davis stepped out of bounds to give the ball back to Wofford.
An ill-advised, early shot clock 3-point try from Myles Stute did not fall, but Jacobi Wright snagged the offensive board. Wright was fouled with 35 seconds remaining and made one of two to extend the lead to four.
Wofford managed to cut the lead to one after a free throw and a Filewich dunk. However, Myles Stute was fouled and made both free throws with 11 seconds remaining. Meechie Johnson, who had been sitting for a while, was inserted and picked up a big steal and knocked down both free throws after the foul.
A silly Jacobi Wright foul led to three missed free throws and a made layup for Wofford, but the Gamecocks held on to win 60-57.
***The graphic should read “Wofford Terriers” as a database error has the team incorrectly named “South Carolina Wofford.”