Freshman forward GG Jackson had a double-double, and graduate transfer forward Hayden Brown was crucial down the stretch as the South Carolina men’s basketball started its 2022-23 season by holding off South Carolina State 80-77.
Jackson showed flashes of what made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school. He scored 18 points while shooting 47% from the field, grabbing 10 rebounds, a steal and a block. After the game, he acknowledged there were still improvements to be made.
"I'm not there yet as a consistent three-point shooter," Jackson said. "Moving without the ball, making cuts, setting down screens, setting fade screens, I feel like that could definitely help the team."
Brown said that he’s never played with somebody as talented as Jackson, and he "just wants to be there for him."
"Having Hayden on the team is kinda like having a big brother," Jackson said. "He's always going to encourage me, and he's not afraid to put his foot in my butt like a coach, so I respect him for that."
Brown was a key off-season acquisition and showed what his contributions could be going forward. The Citadel transfer scored 21 points on 60% shooting from the field with 13 of those 21 points coming in the second half. He grabbed five rebounds and also recorded a steal and a block.
South Carolina drew fouls early and often, putting S.C. State in penalty with eight minutes left in the first half. S.C. State again found itself in the penalty in the second half, this time with 12 minutes left in the game. When the Gamecocks got to the foul line, they made free throws at a clip of 66%.
Guards Meechie Johnson, Chico Carter Jr. and Jacobi Wright were active and aggressive on defense. S.C. State shot 43% from the field and 30% from behind the arc in the first half. However, in the second half, SC State shot 44% from the field and improved to 50% from three-point-range, converting heavily contested shots.
"I feel like we got a little big-headed, and we kind of relaxed," Jackson said. "It definitely showed me that you always have to have your foot on the gas."
In his first game as South Carolina's head coach, Paris earned his first win. His chance for win number two will come Friday night at home against in-state rival Clemson at 7 p.m. on SEC Network+.