Riding three straight losses heading into Saturday’s bout with Georgia, senior South Carolina forward Keyshawn Bryant promised that his team was “gonna figure this out.”
It took some time, but late in Saturday’s game, the Gamecocks finally did.
On the strength of a second-half surge, the Gamecocks (11-7, 2-4 SEC) put away Georgia 83-66, dealing the Bulldogs (5-14, 0-6) their sixth conference loss while snapping USC’s own losing streak.
Here’s what we learned about the Gamecocks.
USC veterans step up in big second half
With nine new players on this year’s roster, head coach Frank Martin has emphasized the importance of the team’s veterans contributing on gameday. Bryant, junior Jermaine Couisnard and center Wildens Leveque have all dealt with their fair share of inconsistency this season. Couisnard missed time with an ankle injury and had been ineffective upon his return, sitting on the bench for the entirety of the Arkansas loss.
But with the Gamecocks staring at their fourth straight loss, and a loss to the SEC’s last-place team, both Bryant and Couisnard found another notch in their games, helping to fuel a game-changing 24-0 Gamecocks run.
Couisnard gave the Gamecocks their first lead since early in the first half with back-to-back transition layups, and he finished with 15 points, scoring 10 in the second half. Bryant, meanwhile, electrified the crowd with a one-handed slam and mixed in a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 19 points.
And though he’s technically a first-year Gamecock, veteran guard Erik Stevenson stepped up too, leading the team with 20 points.
USC fixes key issue in second half
Excessive fouling has been one of the major issues plaguing the Gamecocks during conference play, and that issue struck again early. In the first half alone, the Gamecocks sent Georgia to the free-throw line 22 times, and the Bulldogs sunk 21 of those free throws — accounting for half of their 42 first-half points.
Even worse for USC, the players who got in foul trouble were players the Gamecocks could ill afford to lose. Freshman Devin Carter, who made his second straight start at point guard, and Bryant both spent most of the first half on the bench after committing two fouls apiece.
But the Gamecocks played a much cleaner second half by comparison, sending Georgia to the line just eight times, and the Bulldogs made just four free throws in the half.
Carter gets hurt
In a bit of bad news for the Gamecocks, the dynamic freshman Carter injured himself early in the second half on a one-handed slam dunk, and he walked off the court clutching the back of his left thigh.
Carter walked straight to the locker room, and though he’d return to the bench later in the half, he didn’t check back into the game, wearing a towel over his head as he watched from the sidelines. Carter’s left leg was wrapped.
Next USC men’s basketball game
Who: South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Colonial Life Arena in Columbia