South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks pick up huge win over good Virginia Tech squad

South Carolina Basketball Coach Lamont Paris Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina Basketball Coach Lamont Paris Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /
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South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris started his second year as the head coach of the Gamecocks with an impressive blowout win at home over in-state USC-Upstate on Monday. The second game of the year wasn’t at Colonial Life Arena, however.

Carolina had to travel outside of the state of South Carolina, but just barely. As part of the Hall of Fame Series, South Carolina basketball traveled up I-77 to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies in Spectrum Arena (home of the Charlotte Hornets). It was the first meeting between the two teams since 1997.

As the third game of a triple-header, the Gamecocks and Hokies didn’t tip off until 9:37.  The Hokies won the tip, and Sean Pedulla opened the scoring just 14 seconds into the game with a midrange jumper. Myles Stute answered with a fadeaway in the lane.

In the first few minutes, Stephen Clark picked up a foul on a rebound, lost track of his man for an easy layup, and got caught behind a screen as the Hokies hit a 3-pointer over his outstretched arms, but the Gamecocks were able to overcome his tough start.

The score stood 8-8 after a Ta’Lon Cooper 3-point make and an assist to Myles Stute on back-to-back possessions, but a short Virginia Tech run pushed the score to 13-8.

Both teams on the floor shot a ton of 3s in the early goings of the game, combining for 10 shot attempts behind the arc in the first 7 minutes. Myles Stute and Ta’Lon Cooper made all four of their outside shots for the Gamecocks, including three that helped the ‘Cocks retake a 16-15 lead at the 12-minute media timeout.

A mass substitution for Gamecocks saw just Stute (who already had 10 points) stay on the floor (at the 4) as Zach Davis, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Morris Ugusuk, and Jacobi Wright came in as the first subs. Wright ended the 8-point personal run from Stute with an aggressive drive of his own, and the bench mob helped to push the Carolina run to 12-0.

BJ Mack returned to the game once it was time for Stute to take a break, indicating that Coach Paris might have a tighter rotation than the 11-man group that played against USC-Upstate. Not long into his return to the floor, however, Mack was forced to leave the game with what looked like an ankle injury after landing on a defender’s foot after taking a jump shot.

Virginia Tech didn’t score a point for over six minutes before a Lynn Kidd postup got the Hokies back on the board. It took all of 15 seconds for the Gamecocks to answer with a nice pass from Ta’Lon Cooper to BBV.

Mack returned to the floor and scored immediately, and Stute stayed hot with another made 3-pointer to push the lead to double-digits, 29-19. A quiet Tech run cut the lead to 29-24 at the under-4 media break.

Meechie Johnson took his first shot of the game with about 3 minutes left in the half, and he knocked it down for his first three points. He followed that up with an aggressive drive that resulted in a foul and two made free throws. The next offensive possession for the white-clad Gamecocks was a layup for #5, giving him 7-straight for Carolina.

Virginia Tech scored after each of those Johnson points, however, so the Gamecocks led by 7 points, even with a BJ Mack layup as the final points of the first half. 38-31 was the score after a very good half of basketball for the Gamecocks.

After the intermission, BJ Mack made his first shot but really struggled to guard Lynn Kidd, giving up two buckets and a foul. A Sean Pedulla deep 3-pointer brought the game to a one-possession margin as the 38-31 halftime lead was quickly 42-39 less than three minutes into play resuming.

The two teams traded misses (and one bucket) over the next few minutes, but Stute hit his 4th 3-pointer, and Ta’Lon Cooper had a nice drive to the hoop to inspire some “GAME…COCKS” cheers in Charlotte. A Hunter Cattoor fallaway 3 then made things 48-44.

BJ Mack and Ta’Lon Cooper each scored and assisted each other on made baskets to keep pace with a Virginia Tech squad that was scoring with more consistency. After the media timeout, a BJ Mack open 3 pushed the lead to 58-51, but Mike Young’s team answered with 4 straight.

Virginia Tech continued taking advantage of their huge free throw advantage, making 12-15 compared to just 2-2 for South Carolina basketball. Still, the Gamecocks led 62-59 at the under-8 timeout.

A nice curl action on an out-of-bounds play pushed the lead to 6 after a Jacobi Wright 3-pointer, but Pedulla answered with a deep shot of his own. Meechie Johnson got beat on a back cut, lessening the Gamecock lead to just one point at 65-64, but two Myles Stute free throws and a Hunter Cattoor 3-pointer tied the game at 67-67.

Tech took their first lead since the halfway point of the 1st period when Pedulla knocked down 3-3 from the line, giving him 21 points in just the second half. Jacobi Wright got fouled on a fadeaway jumper, made the shot, and tied the game at 72-72 with the made free throw.

Pedulla set a new career-high in scoring with another free throw, but a Myles Stute 3-ball gave USC a 75-73 lead. Two free throws from Jacobi Wright and a Lynn Kidd post-up on BJ Mack brought the score to 77-75 with 1:28 left on the clock.

Mylyjael Poteat scored in the paint to tie the game with 38 seconds remaining. A successful BJ Mack revenge post-up on Poteat gave South Carolina basketball an 81-79 lead. With just 15 seconds left, the Hokies put the ball in Pedulla’s hands again, but after a tremendous game, he turned the ball over on a tie-up after trying to get the ball to Hunter Cattoor.

With 2 seconds left, BJ Mack was fouled but missed the front end of the one-and-one opportunity. Thankfully for South Carolina basketball fans, a Sean Pedulla heave from three-quarters court was no good, and Lamont Paris picked up his 100th career victory as his Gamecocks moved to 2-0 on the young season.

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South Carolina basketball is 2-0 and will take on VMI in the Arizona Tipoff on Monday. The game will be broadcast on the SECNetwork+ and will begin at 7:00.