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South Carolina rolls past High Point 88-66 in first round of NIT; three quick thoughts

Big Chat comes up huge as the Gamecocks rock the Panthers. Here's a few things we saw in this one.

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Instant reaction from the South Carolina Gamecocks' 88-66 win over the High Point Panthers in the opening round of the NIT:

1. The challenge for the Gamecocks was to overcome the suspension of five players and work with a depleted bench. And, to start, it looked like they would, opening up a 31-13 lead with 9:10 left in the first as they delivered a steady diet of good interior play and strong rebounding. Despite the Panthers cutting it to 48-43 at halftime - helped by a 30-17 run and some red-hot three-point shooting - the Gamecocks got back to basics: working it down low and getting easy looks inside while clamping down on defense, icing the game with a 20-0 run midway through the second. And what can you say about Laimonas Chatkevicius? A career-high 30 points and near-perfect 15-16 shooting from the floor.

2. Michael Carrera was back in the lineup for the first time in two games thanks to a hip injury. How would the senior respond? As it turns out, pretty good. Carrera recorded a double-double, 12 points and 11 boards, while logging 22 minutes before getting a little banged up. As he continues to get back into game shape during the week, he should prove to be even more valuable in the next game.

3. The Gamecocks' next opponent will be either (4) Georgia Tech and (5) Houston at Colonial Life Arena. It will be on a day and time to be announced - but it's believed to be on Monday. How ironic would it be to see the Cougars, whose football team is led by former Gamecocks head coaching candidate Tom Herman, in the 2nd round? Just food for thought.

Full recap coming later. See you for Round 2 in a few days.