If the fans wanted proof that the Gamecocks don’t completely suck, they just got it.
By no means is a win against Clemson anything drastically important with bragging rights off the table, but it’s still another game in the win column and at the expense of a team that deserves at least a little bit of respect.
That trademark Frank Martin defense was on full display Sunday night, forcing Clemson into tough shots and holding them to a field goal percentage of 28%. If that wasn’t enough, through the first 30 minutes, Clemson was only able to put up 31 points (imagine putting up around a point per minute).
The offense found its rhythm, the defense played to its potential, and there are some awards to give out as well.
Player of the Week: A.J. Lawson
To be successful, the Gamecocks need Lawson to play like their star, and he did just that.
He put up 20 points while making 8-of-15 shots, including 4-of-7 from deep.
Lawson was there to make the open shots, which have been more difficult for the Cocks than they should, and he even drained a big three to stop a Clemson run when they cut it to 8 with 6:21 to go.
Lawson’s defense was also greatly improved as he was no longer a liability on that end in addition to tying for the team lead in steals with 3.
South Carolina plays better when they have their guy playing at a high level on the court, and if they want to go dancing this year, Lawson will need to keep having games like these to keep this team competitive.
Runner-up: Keyshawn Bryant
In my opinion, Bryant was the guy that did less of the flashy work (which is off brand because of his dunking talents) and more of the dirty work in this one.
The scoring was left mainly to Lawson, so he didn’t need to contribute greatly in that department.
What Bryant did help with, though, was Carolina’s defense.
He played a hell of a game on that side of the ball, playing physical defense, recording two blocks (two more blocks than Kotsar, the guy who should be our rim protector), and stealing the ball three times.
Bryant also shot a high percentage from the charity stripe making 3-of-4 free throws.
What I love about his game is that he can do just about everything, including the fast break game benefiting greatly from his athleticism.
The whole scoring thing may need some work, but Bryant has shown his worth at least in this game.
Player to Watch: Jair Bolden
Despite Bolden’s start of the game being anything less than ideal, he improved greatly in the second act.
He shot a respectable 33% from three, with one of those being the dagger with around two minutes remaining, and put up a total of 10 points.
The purpose of this “player to watch” section, though, isn’t to commend great play, it’s to spot the good in a player and the potential to rise his level of play in the coming games, which I believe he can do after seeing this one.
Bolden can possibly develop into the sniper this team needs from three and be an effective catch-and-shoot guy.
His numbers aren’t quite there yet, but he hit a big shot and I see more of those to come in the near future.