South Carolina (6-3) overcame early turnover trouble to knock off UMass 84-80 in Amherst, Mass., Wednesday. The Minutemen employed full court pressure, forcing the Gamecocks into six turnovers before the first media timeout. But South Carolina adjusted, beating the press consistently in the latter part of the first half and converting easy opportunities into points on the way to victory.
A.J. Lawson scored 13 of his game-high 24 points in the first half and iced the game at the free throw line. Freshman Jermaine Couisnard tied a career high with 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Sophomore forward Keyshawn Bryant, making his season debut after rehabilitating a knee injury suffered in preseason workouts, scored 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting. Lawson has now led the Gamecocks in scoring in six of nine games.
After solving the UMass pressure, the Gamecocks turned the tables, forcing the Minutemen into 19 turnovers and scoring 22 fast break points. South Caroline shot a blistering 64% in the second half. Center Maik Kotsar keyed the defensive effort and led Carolina in steals (three) and rebounds (nine). Kotsar also dished out five assists.
The Gamecocks didn’t have a banner night from the 3-point line, knocking down just two of 10, but cleaned up in the painted area and hit 62% of their 2-point shots. The 84 points are the second-highest output for the Gamecocks this season (90 vs. Cleveland State). Coach Frank Martin said the emphasis on forcing the ball inside was part of the game plan, “The thing is they press all the time. They press after made free throws. It’s created a style that’s hard to play against. It creates a lot of broken floor situations. I don’t believe in being passive against the press. I wanted to attack it, and not just attack it by shooting, but by attacking the rim.”
South Carolina is back in action, Sunday. The Gamecocks will play host to Houston at Colonial Life Arena and tip off at noon on ESPNU.
Frank Martin postgame press conference (with A.J. Lawson)