Basketball royalty was in the building Sunday afternoon for South Carolina vs. Georgetown.
Hoyas head coach and New York Knicks legend Patrick Ewing brought an entourage of former NBA greats that included Tracy McGrady and Dikembe Mutombo, whose son Ryan Mutombo plays for the Hoyas. Those court-side cameos added an extra layer of spectacle to an important non-conference tilt for the Gamecocks (6-2) in Colonial Life Arena.
Coming off a blowout loss on the road at Coastal Carolina, Frank Martin’s Gamecocks bounced back against the Hoyas, defeating Ewing’s team 80-67.
Here’s what we learned about the Gamecocks.
South Carolina’s bigs step up
Days after Martin said his big men contributed “nothing” to the team’s 24-point loss at Coastal, South Carolina’s frontcourt turned in a much stronger effort against the Hoyas on Sunday.
The Chanticleers dominated USC in the paint in Conway, outscoring the Gamecocks 32-18 inside and out-rebounding USC 49-38.
By comparison, the Gamecocks scored more points in the paint in the first half (20) against Georgetown than they did in the entire game (18) against Coastal. Graduate transfer A.J. Wilson played his best game as a Gamecock starting at the 4, scoring nine points, tallying two blocks and three rebounds.
However, starting center Wildens Leveque stole the show in the second half, putting down a pair of emphatic dunks en route to a team-high 14 points.
Other highlights included a Tre-Vaughn Minott put-back slam and two highlight-reel Keyshawn Bryant dunks. The rebounding battle was neck-and-neck, with Georgetown boasting size in the form of 7-foot Columbia native Malcolm Wilson and the 7-foot-2 Mutombo.
Georgetown out-rebounded USC 47-43, but the Gamecocks outscored the Hoyas in the paint 42-30.
Improved defensive effort
The Gamecocks looked listless defensively at Coastal Carolina, especially running in transition. The Gamecocks were outscored 25-0 on the fastbreak against the Chanticleers and did nothing to stop a 24-4 run by Coastal out of halftime.
The USC defense appeared much more connected against Georgetown, smothering the Hoyas and creating ugly looks. Georgetown came into the game shooting 43.7% as a team, yet USC held the Hoyas to 22% shooting in the first half and 33% for the game.
More importantly, the Gamecocks didn’t wilt in the middle of the second half when the surging Hoyas cut the Gamecocks’ lead to as low as six points. USC led for the entirety of Sunday’s contest.
Cousinard returns, but Wright starts
After missing the Coastal game with a groin injury, veteran guard Jermaine Couisnard returned to the fold against the Hoyas, although he played limited minutes (12) off the bench.
Freshman Jacobi Wright earned his second straight start at point guard after finishing second on the team with 11 points in Conway.
Though the Gamecocks didn’t need to rely on their backcourt quite as much with their bigs playing well, Wright was a useful facilitator, tallying six assists, including an alley-oop to Leveque that awakened the CLA crowd in the second half.
Next USC men’s basketball game
Who: South Carolina vs. Florida State
When: Noon Dec 12
Where: Rock Hill Sports & Events Center in Rock Hill (No Room for Racism Classic)