The South Carolina Gamecocks got the bounce back victory they needed after that disappointing defeat to Stony Brook, dominating the Norfolk State Spartans 81-64 on Tuesday night to end their season-opening homestand on a high note.
Right from the tip, the Gamecocks looked more engaged and organized, presenting a much better effort on defense and on the boards. South Carolina also showed off some range, firing 38% from behind the arc, which was keyed by guard Hassani Gravett’s 5-of-6 performance from 3. The Gamecocks led 37-23 at the half and were never challenged along the way, padding their lead to as much as 28 points in the second half.
Speaking of Gravett, his 18 points led all scorers, but he was equaled by another impressive showing from freshman wing A.J. Lawson, who was all over the floor with six rebounds and eight assists as well. Justin Minaya (10 points) and Felipe Haase (9) enjoyed solid games as well, with Haase in particular looking the best he has in the young season so far.
Veteran big men Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva were a little more involved in this victory, despite landing in early foul trouble again. Unlike Stony Brook, however, the Spartans (2-2) were unable to cash in from the free-throw line to put pressure on the Gamecocks. Both Kotsar and Silva posted 8-point performances and grabbed four rebounds each, but it goes without saying that South Carolina needs to see them more active in the post — and not on the bench as much.
The Gamecocks got back to their winning ways on the glass, out-rebounding the Spartans 36-24, and had a better showing at the free-throw line, making 14 of their 21 attempts. Free-throw shooting is still an area of concern, though, so it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
South Carolina (2-1) travels next to Uncasville, Conn., as the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament changes locations. The Gamecocks take on Providence at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, which will be their first big test of the season.