Coming off an undefeated week, the Gamecocks are tied for fourth in the SEC and are in the midst of a three-game winning streak.
Not going to lie, last week was kind of a shocker. Seeing USC handle Arkansas on the road like that was a very pleasant yet unexpected sight, and they capped it off with a blowout of Missouri three days later.
The Tigers aren’t running the conference by any means, but seeing the Cocks dominate an opponent as opposed to playing down to them per usual was a very good sign.
While that performance may have been impressive, a wire-to-wire victory against the Razorbacks may have topped it. Arkansas, like many teams in college basketball, can become a shell of themselves on the road, but this loss was at home, and it was one they should have secured.
I saw that victory as a statement dub for the Gamecocks in which they showed they can compete home or away against some of the best teams in the conference if not the country.
Throughout the season, I viewed USC as a squad with all the pieces to be special while simultaneously lacking the blueprints. In the beginning, they couldn’t score. Then they couldn’t hit free throws. Then Maik Kotsar and A.J. Lawson got cold. Then Keyshawn Bryant got injured... again.
Now, everything is coming together. The stars are back to playing like stars and they have an effective supporting cast led by freshman phenom Jermaine Couisnard.
There are so many reasons to be excited about this team, and these three guys are only adding to the hype. Here we go!
Player of the Week: A.J. Lawson
Our star has returned! He must have wanted to save his best for the Arkansas game because he truly was brilliant.
Only sitting two minutes, Lawson scored a solid 19 points while draining 8-of-13 shots. He also had a steal, which turned into a pretty fast-break dunk for himself.
It was nice to see his killer instinct return in a game of that magnitude because he sure did have a let-down performance against Kentucky...
He cooled off a little in the Missouri game but was still third on the team in scoring with 13.
Lawson managed to create a few highlights of his own too...
AJ Lawson on his head pic.twitter.com/T7uPyVYfmV— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 1, 2020
It looks like the frustration is over (knock on wood), and we will hopefully be seeing more of that in games to come.
Runner-up: Maik Kotsar
Kotsar, like Lawson, also came back from a cold stretch.
Although he played well before his early exit in the Arkansas game, his better performance was last Saturday against Missouri.
In that one, he scored 21 on 7-of-8 shooting while also grabbing 11 boards, which was good enough to give him his second double-double of the year.
On top of that, Kotsar made sure to give Missouri players personal invitations to the block party after sending four shots into the bleachers.
I was a massive critic of his rim protection, so seeing his latest performance put a large smile on my face.
Welcome back to “Players of the Week.”
Player to Watch: Trae Hannibal
With basketball largely being a game of emotion and momentum, it is no secret that his dunks get this squad going.
Hannibal’s best game of the week was against Arkansas where he scored 11 in 16 minutes of action, including a ferocious slam.
Just like last week with Frink, I don’t think Hannibal is going to become a household name, but he has a role with this team and brings a good energy off the bench. He needs to fix the turnovers, though.