South Carolina men's basketball (2-1) got back in the winning column as they defeated Norfolk State (2-2) 81-64 in the Gamecocks’ second game of the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on Tuesday.
The Gamecocks started off the game with an 11-2 run largely assisted by three successful 3-point shots early in the game. South Carolina's defense also contributed early in the game as they managed to force five turnovers and two blocks in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Despite the Gamecocks playing well early on defense, the Norfolk State offense still managed to get to the free throw line, shooting 7-15 on free throws in the first half.
South Carolina's offense was not shy about shooting the 3-pointer in the first half as they shot 6-20 from beyond the arc.The Gamecocks continued to cruise against the Spartans in the first half, and South Carolina went into the half on an 8-3 run, culminating in a 37-23 lead.
“I thought we played well on both ends of the floor,” head coach Frank Martin said. “Offensive in the first half, offensively and defensively.”
Martin's team maintained their dominant play by continuing their first half run, extending it to 15-3.
The Spartans were unable to score for the first four minutes of the second half as the Gamecocks' defense continued to pressure.
South Carolina continued their success from the 3-point line coming out of the break, shooting 4-4 early in the second half. Norfolk State also consistently hit 3-pointers late in the game, shooting 5-8 from downtown to end the game, but the Spartans fell short, dropping to 2-2 on the year.
The Gamecocks ended the game shooting 51.9 percent from the field and shooting 11-29 from the 3-point line. Most of South Carolina’s 3-point production came from senior guard Hassani Gravett, who shot 5-6 from the 3-point line along with 18 points and 4 assists.
“[Gravett] came in and decided to spend time in practice shooting balls, after practice, before practice,” Martin said. “So guess what, the ball went in the basket for him and he didn’t hesitate from the word ‘go.’ He was out there engaged, ready to go, and that’s what he needs to do for this team.”
Not only did South Carolina draw strength from Gravett, but they looked to freshman guard A.J. Lawson. He scored 18 points and had 8 assists and 6 rebounds in his 30 minutes of play.
“[Lawson] has got a confidence about him and he’s on the go and he sees passes because of his size," Martin said. “Here’s the best part about A.J. Lawson — he wants you to coach him.”
The Gamecocks will look to keep the momentum as they head to Uncasville, Connecticut for their third game of the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament against the Providence Friars (2-1) on Saturday starting at 2:30 p.m.