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Gamecocks get off to a good start, handle North Alabama 77-55

Justin Minaya back.

Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Forward Justin Minaya made an emphatic return and the South Carolina Gamecocks used a big second half to pull away from North Alabama on Wednesday night, starting their season off on the right foot with a 77-55 victory.

Minaya, who played just five games last season before suffering a knee injury, showed out in a big way for South Carolina. The redshirt sophomore notched a double-double, scoring a team-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Rrdshirt junior guard Jair Bolden, a former George Washington transfer, was the only other Gamecock in double figures with 14 points, narrowly missing his own double-double with eight boards.

Other standouts included freshman forward Jalyn McCreary (nine points), who showed a lot of hustle and energy; the finally-eligible Jermaine Couisnard (nine points); and of course sophomore A.J. Lawson (he finished with eight points on a quiet night).

The Gamecocks rolled out a starting lineup comprised of Minaya, senior Maik Kotsar (just six points for him), Lawson, Bolden, and Alanzo Frink (six points as well).

USC shot 49% from the floor and 22% from 3, but struggled at times to convert opportunities at the free-throw line (53%). On the other hand, South Carolina held the Lions to just 25% shooting (which included a 10% performance from distance), and out-rebounded North Alabama 46-37. The Gamecocks hassled UNA into 18 turnovers, but had 20 giveaways of their own in some expectedly rusty play.

South Carolina is back in action on Sunday at noon, hosting Wyoming.