South Carolina entered tonight's match-up losing three of their last four games. In just over a week, the Gamecocks had suffered tough losses vs. quality opponents that were all decided in the game's final minutes against Baylor, UNC-Charlotte, and Akron. Tonight, a Andrew Rowsey-led UNC-Asheville team entered Colonial Life Arena looking to upset South Carolina and continue Frank Martin's misery.
The Bulldogs upset the Gamecocks in 2008, the last time the two teams met, and it looked like they were more than up for the challenge this time around as well. They got out to an early lead on South Carolina behind eight points from Rowsey and four points, seven rebounds from freshman Kem Ubaru in the first 10 minutes of the game. Rowsey was not afraid to challenge the Gamecocks, giving the game its first bucket and then following it up with a pair of 3s. South Carolina rebounded nicely with an aggressive offense and a disruptive defense. The Gamecocks used their size advantage well on both ends of the floor. Out of the first thirteen made field goals for South Carolina, all but two were scored in the paint. That doesn't even include the numerous opportunities Laimonas Chatkevicius couldn't capitalize on over his smaller defender. UNC-Asheville simply couldn't compete with South Carolina's size. Their length and size on defense really bothered UNC-A. South Carolina's 37-29 halftime lead was propelled by a 21-2 run during the first period of play. That stretch featured seven turnovers and 12 consecutive missed field goal attempts by UNC-Asheville while South Carolina made seven shots in a row. Duane Notice often face-guarded Rowsey but the nation's fourth leading scorer still pulled off 16 points in the first half. Turnovers kept UNC-Asheville somewhat in the game entering the locker-room. South Carolina was averaging close 12 turnovers per game entering tonight but went into halftime after committing 10 turnovers in the first half.
After a pretty exciting first half for viewers, the second half turned ugly and sloppy. As much as South Carolina's size was helping them in terms of made field goals for the Gamecocks and missed field goals for the Bulldogs, it wasn't helping in the rebounding department. That was an aspect South Carolina dominated in each game this season but barely squeaked a 39-35 rebounding advantage by UNC-Asheville. South Carolina turnovers, the 3-point line, and Andrew Rowsey kept UNC-A in this game. The Bulldogs made 15 three-pointers and seven came from Rowsey's hand. He finished the night with 30 points, a new season-high. Rowsey simply did not care who was on him or what kind of situation he was in, he had a green light. South Carolina set their season-high of 17 turnovers against UNC-Charlotte and then tied it Sunday night vs. Akron. The Gamecocks have a new season-high after committing 20 turnovers against UNC-Asheville. From tip to finish UNC-Asheville was ready to run against South Carolina and the Gamecocks were happy to return the favor. The Gamecocks found themselves in several 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 situations that led to easy baskets. South Carolina beat UNC-Asheville 89-75 despite team leaders Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Johnson shooting 8-of-20 from the field. The starting big men tonight led the way for the Gamecocks. Demetrius Henry had a career-high 15 points while Chatkevicius also added career highs, posting 17 points and 13 rebounds.
South Carolina heads into their Thanksgiving meals tomorrow thankful for a win. After losing three games by a combined 11 points, a solid win will feel great tomorrow during the festivities. This team is not an ungrateful one, they will relish every win that comes their way. They always act as one and it's fitting that they snap their skid on the eve of Thanksgiving. The Gamecocks don't play again until Monday but up next they hit the road to face the Marshall Thundering Herd. South Carolina plays six of their next nine games at home, a stretch that will be extraordinarily crucial if they want to accomplish their goal of getting to the postseason.