Wofford was more than hospitable Friday in welcoming South Carolina to its new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium, but that didn’t mean the Terriers were going to roll over for the Gamecocks.
This game was set up for one of the bigger wins in Wofford history. Mike Young’s club, NCAA Tournament participants as recently as 2015, had Nov. 10 circled on the calendar for a while. Students were lined up outside the arena more than two hours before tip-off, foreshadowing a memorable atmosphere.
How USC silenced the sold-out crowd of 3,400 shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Gamecocks were only six-point favorites, but won by a 73-52 score.
Here’s what we learned as Carolina took its 17th consecutive season opener:
Hassani Gravett responds well to criticism
At halftime of USC’s exhibition game with Virginia Tech last weekend, Frank Martin only got after one of his players. The Gamecocks were down six and their point guard had more turnovers (four) than points (two).
“I challenged him – just him – and I did it on purpose,” Martin said. “I wanted to see how he responded in the second half.”
Gravett had 13 points and no turnovers in that game’s final period. Friday, the junior contributed with five points, three assists and, again, no turnovers.
“I thought he was rock-solid,” Martin said. “He has established himself as our point guard.”
‘Best shooting team I’ve had’ came to life
Martin came across as a fibber during the exhibition season. The South Carolina squad he called the best shooting bunch he’s had in his 10 years as head coach went a combined 16 for 68 from the 3-point line in the win over Erskine and loss to Virginia Tech.
Friday, though, playing away from Colonial Life Arena for the first time, the Gamecocks went 11 of 23 from downtown. That 47.8 percentage was their best since making 57.7 percent of their 3s in a win over Georgia last January. In fact, USC last season shot better than 47 percent from 3 on just four occasions, and only one of them – a 51.8 percent performance at Tennessee on Jan. 11 – came on the road.
“When I said what I said I wasn’t trying to impress anybody,” Martin said. “If I was going to do coach-speak, I wouldn’t have said that so teams wouldn’t prepare for us to shoot 3s. But I don’t do that, I try to be honest in my assessments of our players.
“Here’s what I like about it, we had multiple guys that made 3s today, and that’s what I see from our guys every day.”
More good than bad with the new players
All eight new Gamecocks played Friday – including mop-up time duty for Jason Cudd and Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia, meaning those freshmen aren’t redshirting – and four of them made a significant impression.
Freshman forward Felipe Haase logged more minutes (23) than any USC reserve. He scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds. The 6-foot-9 Chilean is a legitimate threat from the perimeter – see his two 3s – and that only opens up the lane for the likes of Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar.
Freshman swingman Justin Minaya started and scored six points, grabbed four rebounds, had two assists and helped defend Wofford’s sharp-shooting Fletcher Magee. Maine transfer Wes Myers finished with 10 points in his 17 minutes off the bench. FAU transfer Frank Booker started and scored 12 points.
As for Kory Holden, who earned a big-time scoring reputation at Delaware, it’s clear patience is needed. The junior transfer sat out the Virginia Tech game with a sore knee. He logged just eight minutes Friday, scoring two points and recording three fouls.
As Martin noted earlier this week, “like anyone, coming off an injury, (Holden’s) trying to get to a place of peace with his own body.”