Fans of the Gamecock men’s basketball team caught a glimpse of the new squad for the 2023-24 season during a thrilling 60-57 exhibition victory against the Wofford Terriers on Wednesday night.
The win came in comeback fashion for South Carolina, which trailed by 17 points heading into the second half. The team was outscored 34-17 in the opening 20 minutes thanks to poor efficiency, shooting 20% from the field and 8.3% from 3-point range.
The Gamecocks were able to fire back thanks to strong team defense and impressive individual performances, particularly from graduate student forward B.J. Mack and junior guard Myles Stute, who played in their first game for South Carolina.
Mack, a transfer from Wofford, provided 14 points and seven rebounds to pace the Gamecocks against his former team. Stute, a transfer from Vanderbilt, added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, which led South Carolina's roster on the glass.
“We let them throw the first punch, really. We didn’t come out aggressive enough,” Stute said. “In that second half, we just came together, said what needed to be said in the locker room, and we got each other going, got riled up, got our energy going, and now we understand we can’t come out starting games out like that.”
The Gamecocks came out with more energy in the second half, going on a 20-5 run in the first seven and a half minutes. The 3-pointers started falling for South Carolina, while the team's defense forced multiple turnovers and possessions deep in the shot clock for the Terriers.
“A lot of different things that we were able to do, and even digging a terrible hole early and then finding it within yourself to not jump on the panic button,” head coach Lamont Paris said. "We didn’t hit the panic button, so I thought that was really good."
Sophomore guard Zachary Davis added another strong performance with 13 points and six rebounds off the bench while going 3-5 from long distance, after Davis made just 17.1% of his shots from the 3-point range last season.
Junior guard Meechie Johnson, however, came out struggling. After a strong 2022-23 campaign, where he was second on the team in scoring, Johnson was unable to get much going in the exhibition. He scored just 2 points and missed all eight shots he attempted from the field, with seven of those shots coming from behind the arc. He was able to rack up four assists, however, which led the team.
Johnson's poor shooting put the Gamecocks' depth on display as players further down the lineup picked up his slack.
“It’s hard to quantify how much that can help you," Paris said. “To be able to have some other guys that could find a way to help the team, it just keeps a fresh life out there.”
Though the exhibition win does not count towards South Carolina's win-loss record, it is a strong start to the team's second season under Paris.
The Gamecocks will stay home for its regular season opener against USC Upstate at Colonial Life Arena on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.