South Carolina Basketball: Gamecock weeks 3-4 in review

South Carolina basketball starters Meechie Johnson and Josh Gray will return next season. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina basketball starters Meechie Johnson and Josh Gray will return next season. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports /

South Carolina basketball, since last weekly review, have pushed their combined record to 14-0 on the year. The Gamecock men have gone 2-0 since last update, while Dawn Staley’s group is 3-0 in the past 12 days.

The South Carolina basketball men beat Notre Dame and George Washington (the school) at home, re-writing the record book in the process. The Gamecock women beat Mississippi Valley State at home, then went through Tobacco Road to defeat UNC and Duke in away games.

4 of 5 of those contests were decided by 10+ points, and the South Carolina women set records of their own against Mississippi Valley State with an 82-point margin of victory, the highest in the Dawn Staley era. While the women’s team found themselves trailing at the end of the 1st quarter in both the UNC and Duke games, they physically ran down the Blue Devils and used perimeter shooting to defeat the Tar Heels.

Wednesday, the South Carolina basketball men take on rivals in Clemson, then stay on the road to compete in Greenville, NC, against East Carolina in a Saturday noon matchup. The Clemson game is the most difficult non-conference matchup on the Gamecocks’ schedule, so if they can upset the Tigers, (somewhat of a big if) there’s a good chance that Lamont Paris’s group will enter SEC games undefeated.

The South Carolina basketball women also play on Wednesday, but at home against Morgan State in another very winnable game. Another game is on the schedule this week for the group, a Sunday tilt against Utah at a neutral site. It’s being played in Uncasville, Connecticut, so the crowd isn’t likely to be a huge factor in that game, for either side.

South Carolina Basketball Weekly Review:
Stathead Section

Following the game against George Washington, every Gamecock (that has enough minutes played to qualify and has taken a three) is shooting at a 36.5 3PT% mark or higher. All 8 Gamecocks meeting this criteria rank in the 65th-95th percentile nationally.

Kamilla Cardoso leads the SEC with 12.1 RPG and is one of just two players in the conference recording 10+ rebounds per game. Cardoso has recorded 14+ rebounds in 3 of 7 games this season, including her last 2.

In a year in which the offensive charge call has dropped significantly due to a change in NCAA rule wording, The South Carolina men have drawn a charge on 3.1% of their defensive possessions, placing them within the 90th percentile amongst D-1 schools.

Only three women in the SEC are averaging more than 2.0 BPG. 2 of those 3 are Gamecocks, as Kamilla Cardoso tops the SEC with 3.4 BPG, with Ashlyn Watkins right behind at 2.9 BPG. Cardoso has a block percentage of 10.4%, while Watkins is up to 13.5%.

Lamont Paris’s team’s three-point renaissance has been mostly driven by elite spacing and ball movement. The Gamecocks are the only team in the SEC with a >90% assist rate on shots beyond the arc, over 3% higher than the next-closest team in the conference.

Despite ranking 2nd in the SEC in PPG as a team with 92.0 per game, the South Carolina women don’t have a player in the top 10 in the conference in PPG individually. 5 Gamecocks are averaging 10.0+ PPG, and 7 are averaging at least 9.0 PPG.

The South Carolina men are allowing just a 25.8 FG% from mid-range shots, a massive improvement from last year’s mark of 40.9%. This year’s rate is in the 91st percentile nationally, compared to a rate that was in the bottom 10% in D-1 last season.

The 2nd-highest steal percentage on the Gamecock men’s team isn’t held by a guard, but by 7-footer Josh Gray. His rate of 2.8% trails just Zachary Davis’s rate (elite, by the way) of 4.1%. While it’s admittedly a small sample size (just 43 minutes played), it’s refreshing to see Gray pick up a few steals when he’s been on the court.

All 11 Gamecock women that have played this year have a win shares/40 minutes of over .200, over double the D-1 average (.100) for an individual player. 6 different Gamecocks have rates of .300 or higher, including 4 of 5 starters and 2 players off the bench. (Fulwiley and Ashlyn Watkins.)

Zachary Davis has scored 25% of his points in fast-break situations, and 29.2% of his points in second-chance opportunities. Both of those marks rank above the 84th percentile nationally and showcase his versatility on the offensive side of the ball.

South Carolina Basketball Weekly Review:
Boxscore Break

Where to begin with the record-breaking, 101-19, victory over Mississippi Valley State? Dawn Staley’s group looked absolutely dominant in every aspect of the game. Outrebounding the Devilettes 66-33, Kamilla Cardoso led the way with 10. Every Gamecock recorded multiple rebounds. The Gamecock defense was elite, allowing not just an 11.9 FG% on 8-67 shooting from the field, but containing any perimeter threats as well, allowing just 1-19 shooting from behind the arc, a 5.3% rate.

Kamilla Cardoso posted another double-double with a 14-point, 10-rebound performance, but MiLaysia Fulwiley led the team in scoring with 17 points off the bench. The Gamecocks held MVSU guard Jaylia Reed to 0-16 from the field, and the Gamecocks tallied 27 assists on the night, while the Devilettes managed just 19 total points.

Against Notre Dame, the men started slow, falling behind 10-2 before outscoring the Irish 63-43 the rest of the game in what ended as a 65-53 Gamecock win. Meechie Johnson seemingly could not miss, as the junior guard went 9-15 from the field overall and 4-9 from deep, totaling a career-high 29 points. B.J. Mack played well offensively as well, scoring 17, but only six Gamecocks scored in the game, and only four Gamecocks scored more than two points. Mack, Johnson, and Ta’Lon Cooper combined for 85% of South Carolina’s 65 points.

As a team, with the exception of Johnson, the Gamecocks struggled from deep, shooting 28%, one of their lower marks of the season. Though Notre Dame won the rebounding battle by a 36-32 margin, South Carolina capitalized at the line, converting 20 of 26 free-throw attempts. Ta’Lon Cooper recorded 4 assists to just 1 turnover, but that still dropped his assist/turnover ratio for the season, due to his incredible start to the season.

The women, against UNC, shot the ball from deep at a highly-efficient clip. In the 65-58 win, just 3 Gamecocks attempted a shot beyond the arc, but Bree Hall and Te-Hina Paopao combined to shoot 6-10 from three. In a 7-point road victory, that possibly made all the difference. The Gamecocks were outrebounded by the Tar Heels, which has been a rare occurrence in the past few years. Despite losing the rebounding battle by a 39-45 margin, South Carolina drew 25 fouls and allowed just a 19.0 3PT% from North Carolina.

Bree Hall led the way with 15 points, and though Kamilla Cardoso struggled offensively with just 6 points, she led the team with 16 rebounds. Ashlyn Watkins was the only player off the bench to play more than 10 minutes, and the sophomore forward shined, scoring 10 points in 18 minutes with 4 rebounds, though she did collect 4 fouls. Te-Hina Paopao was the 2nd-highest scorer for the Gamecocks, scoring 14.

Against George Washington, the Gamecock men drained 18 threes on 35 attempts, setting a new school record. B.J. Mack, Ta’Lon Cooper, and Meechie Johnson all made four or more threes, and seven different Gamecocks all made at least one. Though the Gamecocks were outrebounded yet again and oddly enough by the exact same 32-36 margin, that had little effect on the game. At one point, the Gamecocks led by 25 points over the Revolutionaries.

Four Gamecocks scored double figures, with Mack, Stute, Cooper, and Johnson all scoring at least 11 points. Johnson actually led the team in rebounds with 8, and Ta’Lon Cooper threw out 8 assists for the Gamecocks. Both Mack and Clark collected 2 blocks each.

In the game against Duke for the USC women, South Carolina continued their hot offense, shooting 50.0% from the field and 60.0% from deep. They dominated on the glass with a 45-24 rebounding margin, while playing a very collected, disciplined game. Duke committed 19 fouls, but South Carolina committed just 6. No Gamecock had more than two fouls on the night.

Almost all of the offensive damage was done by the starters. All five Gamecocks who started the game on the court scored at least 10 points, led by Kamilla Cardoso, who scored 15 on 5-10 shooting. Cardoso also collected 14 rebounds. Six different Gamecocks shot 50% from the field or better, and the defense held Duke guard Jadyn Donovan to 6 points on 2-10 shooting from the field.

South Carolina Basketball Weekly Review:
Player Profile

On the women’s side, transfer Te-Hina Paopao is the Player Profile of the week. The former Oregon Duck leads the SEC in 3PT% with a 53.1% clip so far, among qualified players. She’s been a huge offensive difference-maker, and when she missed a game against South Dakota State, the team ended up not making a single three for the first time in a game since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paopao is 3rd in the SEC with a 15.3 box plus/minus, and 5th in the conference (2nd on the team behind Cardoso) with a 127.5 offensive rating. 2nd on the South Carolina basketball team with 13.0 PPG, the senior from California has scored between 10-14 points in all 6 games so far and has made at least 2 threes in every game as well.

Meechie Johnson is deserving of this week’s Player Profile on the men’s side for South Carolina basketball. Johnson posted a career-high 29 points against Notre Dame, and he leads the Gamecocks in points and rebounds, which is impressive considering his stature and the presence of Mack in the frontcourt. He leads the team with 108 points produced, and he’s improved his 3PT% to 39.5% this year.

Johnson’s game has been aided by the presence of Ta’Lon Cooper, who’s created spacing on offense and allowed Johnson to get open off-ball. However, plenty of Johnson’s makes have been unassisted, as he can create separation with the ball in his hands as well. The Gamecocks’ offensive renaissance wouldn’t be complete without Meechie Johnson, and they no doubt would have at least 1 loss on their record so far if not for the junior guard.

South Carolina Basketball Weekly Review:
Lineup Lookback

The South Carolina basketball men posted the 7th straight game with the same starting five. It has not deviated from the first game of the season, as Meechie Johnson, Ta’Lon Cooper, Stephen Clark, Myles Stute, and B.J. Mack. However, some changes may arise in the next few games. That’s because freshman Colin Murray-Boyles returned to action against George Washington, even if for a few minutes.

The South Carolina native certainly has the talent to replace Stephen Clark in the starting lineup at the power forward position. He was ranked in the top 100 by some recruiting databases heading into the season, but contracted mono, pushing back his college debut to last week. When fully healthy, he could help elevate this team to an even higher ceiling.

On the women’s side, the starting five of Bree Hall, Te-Hina Paopao, Chloe Kitts, Raven Johnson, and Kamilla Cardoso has remained steady for the past 3 games. In addition to getting the start, that group of 5 averaged the most minutes per game by far in the past two games against UNC and Duke.

Though there are multiple talented options off the bench, including MiLaysia Fulwiley and Ashlyn Watkins, the fact that those two are the 6th and 7th options for the team is a testament to how much talent Dawn Staley has in this program at the moment. 10 Gamecocks are averaging at least 10 MPG this season.

Related Story. South Carolina Basketball earns high spot in first NET rankings. light