The South Carolina men's basketball team defeated Virginia Tech 79-77 Friday night in a close match that came down to the final possessions of the game.
The Gamecocks got off to a good start in the first half against the Hokies, thanks to 3-point shooting and strong defensive work.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Gamecocks found success from behind the arc, shooting 6-11 from the 3-point range. Junior guard Myles Stute was key in the Gamecocks' offensive success. Stute had 13 points in the first half, nine of which came from 3-pointers.
The Gamecocks shot the ball well but struggled with turnovers, giving the ball away six times, which allowed the Hokies to stay in the game.
South Carolina asserted dominance defensively, stifling the Hokies and limiting their first-half field goal percentage to 37%. The Gamecocks were able to disrupt Virginia Tech's offensive rhythm, resulting in a six-minute scoring drought for the Hokies. This defensive effort fueled a 12-0 run.
"Defense fuels the offense," graduate student forward B.J. Mack said. "So, getting stops — that fuels us in transition, and that makes us feel better offensively. We start making shots as well."
Fouls were a key to the second half, as the Gamecocks fouled the Hokies nine times in the final 20 minutes, putting their total tally to 22 free throw attempts, in contrast to the Gamecocks who only went to the free-throw line a total of eight times the entire game.
Despite the fouls, the Gamecocks were still able to play effective defense without getting any key players in foul trouble.
"It's tough to want to play physical, our brand of basketball," Stute said. "But also not want to pick up that fourth foul and have to sit down for a second, so you just kind of got to monitor it. The refs were calling it a little tight here and there, but I thought, just throughout the course of the game, we stayed strong, like I said, played our brand of basketball."
The team's new transfer players, graduate student guard Ta'Lon Cooper, Mack and Stute, led the way for the Gamecocks offensively. The three combined for 52 of the Gamecocks' 79 points.
Mack scored the game deciding points for the Gamecocks as he made a layup after a nice move in the post to put the Gamecocks up by 2 with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
The defense earned the victory for the Gamecocks, though. The Hokies tried to answer back after Mack's layup, but the Gamecocks' smothering defense resulted in a Hokies turnover with two seconds remaining.
"I thought our intensity was extremely high," South Carolina head coach Lamont Paris said. "So was our discipline, which is a hard combination to have. When you're playing such intense, high-energy defense, it's very hard to also be disciplined ... I thought it was really important that we continue to establish what our bread and butter was."
The victory puts the Gamecocks at 2-0 on the young season. The game also marks the 100th career win for Lamont Paris, who is in his second season coaching the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks will come back to Columbia to face the Virginia Military Institute Keydets (1-1). The game will tip-off at 7 p.m. and will broadcast on the SEC Network+.