South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris has his team performing significantly better than most expected in the 2023-2024 season. However, a tough performance over Charleston Southern on Saturday had some (overreacting) Gamecock fans wondering if the promising season was about to implode.
Tuesday night's contest against in-state Winthrop helped keep some pessimistic South Carolina basketball fans off the ledge.
The game started with a nice layup from Stephen Clark after an offensive rebound, and then the game got ugly for a couple minutes. Turnovers, missed shots, and dropped rebounds were all the fans in Colonial Life Arena saw for about two more minutes until a Kelton Talford dunk for Winthrop.
At the 16:00 mark, Winthrop took a 5-4 lead on a Kasen Harrison 3-pointer, and neither team scored until a timeout near the 15:00 mark. The Gamecocks forced Winthrop's second shot clock violation, and Meechie Johnson made a layup through contact to retake the lead.
Jacobi Wright hit a 3 from the left side of the floor to give the Gamecocks their first made outside shot of the game (0-5 before that point). The lead grew to 13-7 after a Meechie Johnson steal and fast break dunk, and Carolina held Winthrop without a field goal for almost 7 minutes. Free throws for the Eagles and missed shots by the Gamecocks kept the game close.
A Morris Ugusuk 3-pointer ended a short scoring drought by South Carolina basketball, and the lead became 18-10 heading into the under-8 media timeout. A Myles Stute deep ball immediately was answered by one from KJ Doucet, but Stute got the upper hand in the back-and-forth with a big dunk on the next possession.
Poor shooting remained the theme of the 1st half as the score stood 27-19 with 3:35 on the clock. At that point, both teams were shooting 38% or worse from the field and 29% or worse from behind the arc.
On the season, Winthrop makes more free throws than they allow their opponents to take, and that trend continued on Tuesday as the Gamecocks' 11-point lead fell to 6 after two more freebies for the Eagles. A few possessions later, another Doucet 3-ball and an Alex Timmerman layup brought the score to 29-26.
A Meechie Johnson layup, two Kelton Talford free throws, and a Ta'Lon Cooper jumper finished the scoring for the half as South Carolina basketball led 33-28 after the buzzer.
BJ Mack continued to struggle as the 2nd half got underway, giving the ball away to the Eagles with a carrying violation. His post partner Stephen Clark didn't have a great start to the 2nd half, either. He passed up a clear scoring opportunity for a pass (the resulting shot was a miss), fouled Kelton Talford on an and-one conversion on the other end, missed a shot, and then lost a rebound out of bounds.
After the inauspicious start, Clark turned things around with a running hook shot and a tough block on defense. Myles Stute had a nice stretch himself as he made his 2nd 3-pointer of the contest and then forced a turnover to send the game to the under-16 media timeout.
As a team, the Gamecocks' outside shooting continued to struggle. Myles Stute, Morris Ugusuk, and Jacobi Wright were 4-7 combined, but the rest of the Gamecocks were 0-9.
The Gamecock offense made a few shots inside the arc, however, and South Carolina basketball took a 50-40 lead with 13 minutes to play.
A Carolina scoring drought near 3 minutes allowed Winthrop to bring the score to 50-47 after two free throws from Kelton Talford. The Great Falls, South Carolina native had made more free throws (8) than the Gamecocks' entire team had attempted (4).
A Ta'Lon Cooper layup finally ended the 7-0 run, but a Sin'Cere McMahon 3-pointer cut the lead to 2. The combination of Stephen Clark and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk finally gave Talford issues, forcing a travel on a drive. The game's physical tone was taken too far on the next possession as BBV was thrown to the floor going for a rebound, but no call went the Gamecocks' way.
Two Alex Timmerman free throws (the count stood 20-4 in favor of Winthrop) made the score 55-52, and KJ Doucet made one more to cut the lead to 2 points.
Some further poor officiating allowed Winthrop to get away with another travel and some serious contact in the paint. The two teams combined for a 1-14 shooting stretch before a Jacobi Wright fast break layup gave USC a 59-53 lead.
A big Meechie Johnson blow-by put the Gamecocks up 8, and a few moments later, a Ta'Lon Cooper 3-pointer from the top of the key brought the score to 68-59. The lead was 8 after a Kasen Harrison free throw, but the Gamecocks had the ball with 40 seconds remaining in the game.
The score moved to 72-62 after some free throws from Meechie Johnson iced the game away, and the Gamecocks won (and covered) to move to 10-1.