The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecocks defeat Notre Dame 65-53, Meechie Johnson scores career-high

Gamecocks men's basketball continued its strong start Monday night with a 65-53 win against Notre Dame. For the first time since the 2016-17 season, South Carolina is undefeated through six games. Junior guard Meechie Johnson was the star of the game, scoring a career-high 29 points and carrying the Gamecocks to victory.

The South Carolina men’s basketball team defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 65-53 during the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.

The win comes off a nine day break for the Gamecocks after winning the Arizona Tip-off Tournament and now makes South Carolina 6-0 on the season, the first time the team has stayed undefeated through this many games since the 2016-17 season. 

MBB v. Notre Dame final score

But the long break also contributed to poor shooting by the Gamecocks, who only converted on 38% of shots from the field and only 28% of 3-pointers. The stagnant offense and an impressive shooting performance early on by the Fighting Irish kept the game close. 

Despite the rest of the team struggling, junior guard Meechie Johnson looked extremely comfortable and would be the difference-maker as he scored a career-high 29 points on 9-15 shooting and four 3-pointers. 

"I was kinda just hooping," Johnson said. "Just being me, and my teammates telling me to keep going and just keep playing my game." 

South Carolina's rust meant the team found itslef down 8-0 after the first five minutes of the game, but the Gamecock fought back..

Head coach Lamont Paris and his players quickly rallied and went on a 14-5 run over the next five minutes. Johnson would lead all scorers at the break with 15 points, but the Irish connected on 50% of 3-point attempts in the half and only trailed 31-28. 

The second half also started in a very similar fashion as the Gamecocks missed on seven consecutive field goals. South Carolina countered the second sluggish start with aggressiveness at the rim, which led to 16 free throws attempts and 12 makes.

"It's good to have a game where you start off 0-7 in the first half, you start off 1-7 in the second half," head coach Lamont Paris said. "You find a way to put it all together, and it stops here, a bucket here, a timely bucket. It's nice to do that." 

The Gamecock offense would eventually find its footing with the help of Johnson and graduate student forward B.J Mack, who finished the game with 17 points and was the only Gamecock other than Johnson to score more than 10 points. 

South Carolina struggled to get other players involved, though, as only six Gamecocks scored during the game, but other players added value in different areas, such as sophomore guard Zachary Davis, who posted a team-leading +23 in the plus/minus category.

Defense continued to succeed for Paris even as the offense sputtered. South Carolina held the Notre Dame's leading scorer, freshman guard Markus Burton, to a season-low eight points. The defensive side of the court continues to be an emphasis for South Carolina as it has now held its last four opponents to under 47% shooting.

"Defense is always just a main focus for us 'cause we know we're one of the best defensive teams in the country. Then, that's gonna lead to points in transition and great offensive shots for us," Mack said

The Gamecocks will be back in action on Friday, Dec. 1, to take on the George Washington Revolutionaries. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcasted on SEC Network+ and ESPN+.