Meechie Johnson’s big night powers South Carolina past Notre Dame to 6-0 start

The inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge drew its largest crowd of the men’s basketball season Tuesday in Columbia. South Carolina, fresh off its Arizona Tip Off title last week, faced brand new head coach Micah Shrewberry and Notre Dame.

Guard Meechie Johnson played hero ball to make sure South Carolina defended Colonial Life Arena, scoring 28 points in a 65-53 win over the Fighting Irish and advance to 6-0.

Johnson has their back

In the previous five games, South Carolina had at least three players score 10-plus points. Against Notre Dame, USC had two players: BJ Mack and Johnson. While it’s no surprise Mack found his way to 10 points, Johnson’s first-half hot streak was the Gamecocks’ get-out-of-jail-free card for most of the game.

His efforts led to a career-high 28 topping his 26 points against Kentucky last season.

Head coach Lamont Paris played his entire available roster, except Eli Sparkman, and no one could sink a shot. Mack, who scored 27 against Grand Canyon in Arizona last week, finally amassed double digits with 10 minutes left in the game.

Paris said earlier this season Johnson had the capability to lead USC when the shots weren’t falling. Tuesday night showcased just that.

Score in the paint

South Carolina’s Achilles heel this season has been scoring in the paint. The Fighting Irish took advantage of that.

For players not named Meechie Johnson, the Gamecocks were 7-for-28 from the field. USC’s inability to score down low continues to plague the offense, despite the Gamecocks being bailed out by Johnson and some well-shot 3-pointers.

The Gamecocks forced eight turnovers, scoring nine points. In the first half, Notre Dame was dangerously close to three-straight shot clock violations.

Paris’ group has found some way to cover the lack of two-point buckets, but it’ll be a lingering issue against George Washington and Clemson next week.

Next four USC MBB games

Dec. 1 - vs. George Washington, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

Dec. 6 - at Clemson, 8 p.m. (ACC Network)

Dec. 9 - at East Carolina, noon (ESPNU)

Dec. 6 - vs. Charleston Souther, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)