The South Carolina Gamecocks defeated Benedict College 101-76 in an exhibition match Thursday night.
The game started off competitive, until South Carolina started to pull away midway through the first half. Benedict gave the Gamecocks a scare near the end of the half, turning up the intensity on defense, which led to some South Carolina turnovers that they were able to capitalize off of.
The Gamecocks quickly adjusted and went into the half up 15 points.
South Carolina continued to build its lead in the second half and controlled the game the rest of the way.
The Gamecocks built their lead thanks to effort on the defensive end. For the game, the team held Benedict to 36% from the floor. South Carolina also forced 17 turnovers, scoring 24 points off of those turnovers.
“(South Carolina) just sprinted back on defense. And now we got to try to execute against that defense where they deny everything, it was hard for us to pass the ball to the wing, to run anything,” Benedict head coach Artis Maddox said.
Defense is not the only reason South Carolina got the win. The team shot 57% from the floor and even knocked down 9 3-pointers, something this team struggled with a lot last year.
“We shot the ball at a good clip the entire night as a team. But you know that’s what we get, that’s why we were brought here, we got to shoot the ball," senior guard Eric Stevenson said.
The team’s gamble on the transfer portal paid off in the exhibition. Stevenson had 14 points, junior guard Chico Carter Jr. scored 8 points and added five assists and sophomore forward Josh Gray had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Graduate guard James Reese V was instant offense for the Gamecocks. Twice in the first half, Reese had moments where he scored over 7 points in about a minute or less.
With around seven minutes left in the first half, Reese knocked down two huge threes in back-to-back positions. He then went down the court and caught a lob, causing the South Carolina crowd to go crazy.
Reese finished the game with 21 points and three rebounds on 9-11 shooting.
The team struggled in transition defense and gave up 18 fast breakpoints, but head coach Frank Martin feels this was because of a lack of focus on transition defense in practice.
“That’s 50/50, 50% me 50% the players, the problem. The 50% me, is that I believe in building our foundation of our half-court defense first," Martin said. "So I haven’t spent a lot of time on open court defense.”
Despite only being an exhibition game, the Gamecocks showed a lot of promise on the court during this game.
“We can be so good, because we have the ability, we have depth, we have smarts and we have athleticism, and then obviously we got size,” Martin said.
The Gamecocks will open their regular season Tuesday when USC Upstate comes to town at 7 p.m., which can be watched on SEC Network+.