In a span of eight days, South Carolina did something it hadn’t done in eight years.
Here’s what we learned after the victory that puts USC (13-7, 4-4) a game back of third place in the SEC standings:
‘Best shooting team I’ve had’ made its timely return
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USC broke an ugly stretch of offense in which it failed to shoot 40 percent or better from the field in nine consecutive games.
The Gamecocks made 43.6 percent of their attempts against the Gators, including 50 percent (13 of 26) in the second half.
“I said before the season this is was one of the best, if not the best, shooting team I’ve coached,” Frank Martin said, revisiting his bold statement from October. “Well, I’m around them. I see them make shots.
“The problem is, when you play in the SEC, the other teams don’t cooperate well, allowing you to shoot. You actually have to learn how to set screens and cut and spacing and know when to attack. Our guys are learning that.”
South Carolina moved to 9-0 this season when shooting 40 percent or better. The Gamecocks are 12-0 in 2017-18 when scoring 70 or more points.
Perhaps USC truly is starting to heat up. After 11 more Wednesday, Martin’s crew has made double-digit 3s in consecutive games for the first time this season.
The Gamecocks host No. 14 Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders lead the Big 12 in both field goal percentage and 3-point FG percentage defense.
When perimeter shots are falling, Chris Silva is that more effective
Wes Myers, Justin Minaya and Evan Hinson – USC’s starting guards – made nine of their 14 attempts from 3-point range. Such performance didn’t just help the Gamecocks battle back from as many 11 points , it opened things up for Carolina’s best player.
Silva saw fewer and fewer double teams down the stretch. The All-SEC candidate scored 11 of his 18 points over the final 11:50.
“Because guys were making shots, it made it hard to go double Chris Silva in the low-post,” Martin said. “And we changed some stuff we were doing to try to enter it to him. So it made rotations to double, from how they were trying to double, a little harder. It wasn’t rocket science, just a little adjustment we made.
“But if we don’t make shots, they don’t come at our guys, and then it’s hard to get Chris going inside.”
Another big win features another under-the-radar performance from Maik Kotsar
Silva and Myers were the deserved headliners from both the Kentucky and Florida wins, but perhaps there’s no celebration after either game if not for Kotsar.
The 6-10 Kotsar opened the UK upset with a steal and dunk that ignited 16,000-plus inside Colonial Life Arena. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Against Florida, Kotsar, taking some attention off his star frontcourt mate, had nine points, six boards and a team-best four assists.
Keith Stone, Florida’s starting center and Kotsar’s defensive assignment, was held to two points. Stone entered averaging over eight a game. He dropped 23 on Ole Miss two weeks ago.
“Maik, for as quiet and for as young as he is, he’s been as vocal as he’s ever been for the last seven, eight, nine days,” Martin said. “It’s real surprising. He’s really playing well for us.”
On Jan. 13 at Georgia, Kotsar failed to score more than two points for the second time in three games. The sophomore’s averaging 9.6 in the three games since.
Perry Clark gets an assist
The Gamecocks had four more assists (14) than turnovers (10) Wednesday, good for their best ratio this season.
A 15th helper goes to Clark, the USC assistant coach who was in charge of scouting Florida. His big move? Clark had the 2017-18 Gamecocks throw on film of their previous selves.
“Coach Clark, he put on last year’s team,” Myers said. “And we saw how patient they were on the offensive end, really relying on Option A, B, C. So that’s what we tried to do towards the end of the game — slow down, not rush, just run it all the way through.”
Carolina, which now has defeated Florida three times in four chances, made four of its final five shots from the floor.