The scouting report said they played zone, so USC’s men’s basketball team knew Monday was the night to finally turn it loose beyond the 3-point line.
In perhaps their best offensive performance of the young season, the Gamecocks hit 13-of-27 attempts from 3-point range and shot a sizzling 60.7 percent in the second half of their 88-76 victory against Rider.
Everyone got into the act, including 6-7 freshman post player Mindaugas Kacinas, who sank the team’s final trey. Kacinas finished with 18 points. Keyed by his 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc, guard Brenton Williams posted a career-high 22 points while LaShay Page scored all 12 of his points on 4-of-6 shooting from long range.
“We figured the team was going to play the zone in the scouting report so we took time and got our shots after practice and things like that to prepare to shoot in the game,” Williams said.
“I’m happy we are 3-0,” USC head coach Frank Martin began.
“We’re playing with Fool’s Gold right now. The game has a lot of things you can control and it’s got one thing you can’t control,” he continued. “That’s the ball going in the basket. Right now, we’re depending on the ball going in the basket. We’re not controlling the things we can control. When it catches you, don’t be surprised and don’t cry when you don’t like what it smells like”
That would be defense on the ball, Martin said. Overall, the Gamecocks’ defense has been satisfactory with the notable exception of guarding the man with the ball, Martin said.
“It’s embarrassing,” Martin said.
A big piece of the defensive puzzle has been absent since the opener. Without the frenetic presence of freshman post player Michael Carrera (concussion), Martin said a significant chunk of the team’s toughness has gone missing.
“He brings a certain sense of toughness and courage to the basketball team,” Martin said. “I don’t think it’s any surprise that he plays and Milwaukee shoots 38 percent from the field.
“All of the sudden he doesn’t play and we give up 53 percent (against Morgan State) and 50 percent today.”
Rider scored 42 points in the paint, 40 coming on dribble drives into the lane or along the baseline.
USC outrebounded Rider 33-23 despite R.J. Slawson being limited to 19 minutes with foul trouble. Lakeem Jackson picked up the slack with a 14-point, 7-rebound effort.
Kacinas played 32 minutes and hit 8-of-11 shots, mostly under the basket.
“He played pretty well. Hit the boards pretty well which is something we need with (Carrera) out,” Jackson said of Kacinas. “He came in and gave us good minutes.”
The Gamecocks also converted 11-of-14 free throws.
Rider (2-2) was led by Nurideen Lindsey’s game-high 26 points.
USC returns to action Wednesday night against Elon before travelling to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for two games to round out the Hoops for Hope Classic. The Gamecocks will then travel to St. Johns on Nov. 29 before playing host to Clemson on Dec. 2.
Percentages: FG .509, FT .762. 3-Point Goals: 6-14, .429 (Myles 3-6, Thompson 1-2, Lindsey 1-2, Pereira 1-3, Sadler 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 2 (Fortunat, Myles). Turnovers: 17 (Lindsey 5, Thompson 4, Myles 3, Da. Stewart 3, Sadler, Fortunat). Steals: 9 (Lindsey 3, Thompson 2, Fortunat, Da. Stewart, Nd-Ezuma, Pereira). Technical Fouls: Bench.
Percentages: FG .533, FT .786. 3-Point Goals: 13-27, .481 (Williams 5-8, Page 4-6, Leonard 2-5, Kacinas 1-1, Richardson 1-3, Slawson 0-1, Smith 0-3). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 2 (Williams, Richardson). Turnovers: 18 (Jackson 4, Leonard 4, Kacinas 3, Page 2, Richardson 2, Slawson 2, Smith). Steals: 5 (Jackson 2, Leonard, Kacinas, Smith). Technical Fouls: None. Officials–Anthony Jordan, James Breeding, Tracy Woodson.