The South Carolina men's basketball team finished in third place in the Asheville Championship, after the team lost to Princeton on Friday and bounced back on Sunday to beat Western Kentucky.
Poor shooting led to South Carolina’s loss in its first game of the Asheville Championship on Friday against Princeton by a final score of 66-62. The Tigers did not play in 2020-21 because of Ivy League COVID-19 restrictions, so it was the team's first win over a D1 opponent in 615 days.
The Gamecocks started out playing well, taking a ten-point lead at the 11:38 mark. From there, the game flipped. Princeton went on a 22-6 run to end the half, taking a 31-25 lead at the break.This lead was largely due to two scoreless droughts for the Gamecocks, lasting 3:49 and 4:16, respectively, in the first half.
Another key problem was the team's poor shooting from three-point range on the night. Despite hitting three-pointers late in the game, South Carolina ended the night 4-26 from behind the three. The team also did not have a single free throw attempt in the first half.
In the second half, the teams traded leads back-and-forth, starting with a 10-0 Gamecock run. South Carolina took its first lead since the 7:28 mark of the first half at the 13:39 mark in the second half, due to the scoring run.
Princeton answered with a 9-0 run, leading by seven with just over six minutes left in the game. It was pretty much all Tigers there on out.
Jermaine Couisnard made two three-pointers late in the game, but the Tigers closed it out at the free-throw line. Couisnard finished with 17 points.
Princeton can credit its success to an efficient shooting performance. The Tigers made 11 threes and shot 46% from the field.
Erik Stevenson scored 14 points for the Gamecocks but did not make any shots from the three-point range, shooting 0-10. Wildens Leveque was perfect from the field, scoring 11.
The Gamecocks bounced back Sunday, defeating the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 75-64 thanks to a physical performance, topped with efficient shooting.
The Gamecocks dominated Western Kentucky on the glass, out rebounding the Hilltoppers 46-28. Leveque led the way for the Gamecocks with 11 boards.
The team struggled to hit shots at the start of the game. Seven minutes in, South Carolina was shooting 28% from the floor and 22% from three. This allowed Western Kentucky to keep it close.
A few strong defensive possessions in a row allowed the Gamecocks to build some separation. The team started hitting shots on the other end, raising its field goal percentage to 43% by halftime.
“Last game, you know, we had a rough shooting night, but that’s all a part of basketball,“ graduate student guard James Reese said. “We just stuck with it, kept shooting. Coach Frank drew up some good plays for us to get us moving the ball a little more, and we got wide-open shots, we was able to throw some in tonight.”
Taking care of the ball was an issue all game for the Gamecocks. The team struggled to beat the pressure of the Hilltoppers' full-court press and committed 24 turnovers in the game.
The Gamecocks’ struggle to take care of the ball were very visible at the start of the second half. The Hilltoppers took advantage of this, going on an 11-4 run within the first five minutes to tie the game at 35.
“Turnovers hurt us. It eliminated possessions where we wouldn’t get shots, and it gave them open court opportunities,” Head coach Frank Martin said.
Reese was an X-factor on both ends of the floor, recording 14 points, 3 rebounds and 4 steals. Freshman guard Devin Carter had an impressive outing for the Gamecocks, as well, with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
“Devin, he loves physicality, he’s one of our best downhill players in my opinion, he’s not scared of the moment, he wants to be in that position and I think that’s why he thrives you know, and it just showed tonight how fierce he is,” Reese said.
Stevenson’s shooting struggles continued in this game. He shot 3-12 from the floor and 1-8 from three. So far this season, he is shooting 10-43 from the field and 2-25 from behind the arc. His struggles have hurt the team on the offensive side of the floor this year.
South Carolina will welcome UAB to Colonial Life Arena on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. The game can be viewed on SECN+.