The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks overcome sloppy start to outlast Catamounts

Fresh off a 92-76 win against Lipscomb on Friday, the South Carolina men’s basketball team hosted Western Carolina on Monday looking for an easy win. The Gamecocks were looking for good games from SEC Player of the Week Mindaugas Kacinas and freshman sensation P.J. Dozier to dispatch the Catamounts, but ended up relying on a host of players to complete the 76-53 victory.

Setting the Scene

South Carolina entered Monday night’s contest riding its best start of the Frank Martin era. The last time the Gamecocks began a season 6-0 was in 2003, when the Gamecocks finished the season with a 23-11 record and an NCAA Tournament berth.

Western Carolina entered the game with a 2-3 record, including close losses to College of Charleston and High Point.

Starting Sloppy

Part of South Carolina’s early season success can be attributed to a plus-3.8 turnover margin, but Monday started sour for the Gamecock offense. Despite averaging just 11.7 turnovers per game in the first six contests of the year, the Gamecocks turned the ball over 13 times in the first half alone.

The sloppy play on offense allowed Western Carolina to mount a five point lead as late as 11 minutes into the game. Down 20-15, however, the Gamecocks stormed ahead with a 19-0 run jump-started by a Michael Carrera three-pointer.

The Catamounts started hot, hitting six of their first 14 shots, including 3-5 from behind the arc, before the Gamecock defense settled in and held them to 3-17 shooting the rest of the first half.

At the break, South Carolina held a 37-28 lead behind nine points from Carrera and 11 from Kacinas.

Restarting Strong

Holding a nine-point lead at the half, the Gamecocks came out of the break fired up, outscoring the Catamounts 28-16 in the first 10 minutes. The Gamecocks hit five three-pointers in that span, stretching their lead to 21 in that time.

"I'm proud of the guys, the way we came out in the second half and played offensively," Martin said. 

The Gamecocks have consistently outplayed teams in the early minutes of the second half all season, extending their meager halftime leads and giving themselves breathing room. The early half runs have helped the Gamecocks win six of their seven games by double digits.

Gritty Seniors

Carrera and Kacinas were the top scorers for the Gamecocks Monday night. The two seniors were part of Frank Martin’s initial recruiting class in 2012 and have never been considered the most talented players on the court.

For four years, the two, along with fellow senior Laimonas Chatkevicius, have exhibited the gritty nature of Martin and his team.

"I think that we've been together so long that we know each other well," Carrera said. 

Carrera, typically considered a high-motor, change-of-pace rebounder, finished 4-7 from the field and added two blocks and two steals.

Kacinas, who made tremendous strides this offseason, again led the Gamecocks with 20 points on 8-11 shooting. He also added 11 boards and a steal. The two senior forwards combined to go 5-6 from behind the arc and 7-7 from the line.

Up Next

South Carolina will host the University of South Florida at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.