South Carolina’s A.J. Lawson made 12 of his 13 free throws en route to a career-high 28 points. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

South Carolina moved to 3-0 with a 90-63 victory over the Cleveland State Vikings at Colonial Life Arena, Friday. A.J. Lawson paced the Gamecocks with a career-high 28 points, knocking down 12 of 13 from the foul line. Cleveland State played competitively through the first 20 minutes, shooting 56% in the opening half. But Frank Martin’s defense stiffened in the 2nd half and limited the Vikings to 29% shooting the rest of the way. The Gamecocks also forced 17 second-half turnovers. South Carolina was able to turn that defense into offense, scoring 26 points off Cleveland State’s 29 turnovers.

Center Maik Kotsar didn’t contribute much offensively, scoring just five points on 2 of 6 shooting, but did grab a game-high 12 rebounds. Freshman Wildens Leveque buried all four of his shot attempts from the floor and scored 12 points in just 11 minutes. Forward Alonzo Frink posted his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Eight of Frink’s ten rebounds were on the offensive end. According to Martin, those offensive rebounds were a key to the Gamecocks success, “We have not been a very good offensive rebounding team, minus Chris Silva, the last two years. We’ve got more guys that do that for us, now. I think that can be a staple of this team.”

Cleveland State was within five points at 45-40 at the end of the 1st half, but the Gamecocks dominated the 2nd half, outscoring the Vikings 45-23 over the final 20 minutes of play. South Carolina was especially good defending the arc, holding Cleveland State to just 2 of 11 shooting on 3-pointers.

South Carolina is next in action as part of the Cancun Challenge. The Gamecocks will open the Challenge on their home floor against Boston University, Tuesday at 7 p.m., before hosting Gardner-Webb, Friday.

Final stats

Frank Martin press conference

A.J. Lawson, Maik Kotsar and Alonzo Frink postgame comments