South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks smother Elon Phoenix to move to 11-1

In the team's lowest defensive scoring effort of the year, the South Carolina basketball team dominated Elon 70-43 to move to 11-1 on the season.

South Carolina basketball point guard Ta'Lon Cooper
South Carolina basketball point guard Ta'Lon Cooper / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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The 10-1 South Carolina basketball team came into its Friday contest against Elon with its best record since 2015-2016 (the season before the Final Four run). While getting the Phoenix at home should not be a major challenge for a good team, the game was going to be a little harder than one might expect.

In addition to the Gamecocks being on a two-game losing streak to Elon (USC lost back-to-back games in the last year of the Darrin Horn era and the first year under Frank Martin), they had to deal with missing a starter. Star guard Meechie Johnson was in street clothes for this one with a minor knee injury. 6th man Jacobi Wright stepped into the starting lineup for the first time this season, though, he started 15 games last year for the Gamecocks.

The game began in a similar way to the end of their last contest, with poor officiating. Just as the Winthrop matchup ended with some questionable calls (and non-calls), the Elon game began that way. An obvious flop from Elon was missed, and the strange whistles and non-whistles became a theme for the game.

The Gamecocks didn’t help themselves early as they fell behind 5-1 as Myles Stute shot two air balls and Stephen Clark missed an easy layup.

The poor shooting continued as the two teams combined to go 3-14 heading into the under-16 media timeout.

A Zach Davis 3-pointer gave South Carolina basketball its first lead of the game, 9-7, and then neither team scored for over two minutes. Several moments later as the 1st half moved to its midpoint, the Gamecocks led 13-12.

Elon briefly took the lead on a Max McKinnon layup, but Ta’Lon Cooper answered with his 6th and 7th points with a tough fadeaway. The two teams traded baskets and misses (mostly misses) for the next couple of minutes before Carolina made three in a row to go ahead 26-18. The 7-0 run took the two teams to the under-4 timeout.

Thanks to a Jacobi Wright make, the run swelled to 9-0 (13-2) before a McKinnon jumper brought the score to 28-20 in favor of the home Gamecocks.

After a pair of Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk free throws, a flurry of missed shots from both squads carried the game to halftime. At the break, South Carolina basketball led 30-20.

After the intermission, the missed shots kept coming for both team as the teams combined to shoot 3-10 in the opening minutes. Then Elon made 2 of 3 and the Gamecocks made 3 in a row (including Myles Stute’s first two made shots) as their lead grew to 40-23.

The strong USC defense continued in the early goings of the 2nd half as the Gamecocks forced the Phoenix into 5 turnovers in the first 5 minutes of the period.

After a make from Elon, both teams went on separate 3-minute scoring droughts before Ta’Lon Cooper hit another deep ball (his 3rd) to give him 15 points and to give his team the 45-28 lead.

After going scoreless in the 1st half, Myles Stute converted a three-point play to give him 8 points at the halfway point of the 2nd period. The next trip down the court, big Sam Sherry tied Max McKinnon with 9 points as the Elon duo had all but 13 of their team’s points.

BJ Mack, who had been pretty quiet, hit an open 3-pointer to bring his scoring total to 9 points on 10 shot attempts, but some ugly basketball followed. Over the next few minutes, the Gamecocks and Phoenix missed open shots, turned the ball over, and failed at the free throw line, and the score stood 56-39 with just over 4:30 left on the clock.

As Lamont Paris’ squad put things on cruise control, Myles Stute brought his 2nd-half scoring total up to 14 points after making another 3-pointer. Freshman forward Collin Murray-Boyles also had a thunderous dunk in the closing minutes. When the final buzzer sounded, the Gamecocks moved to 11-1 (matching their win total from all of last year) with a 70-43 victory.

South Carolina Basketball vs. Elon Phoenix. 70. 533. Final. 43. 2368