USC Men's Basketball

Four things we learned from South Carolina’s split weekend in Connecticut

South Carolina is 3-2 after a split weekend at the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Connecticut. Here’s what we learned about the Gamecocks after their win over George Washington and loss to Providence:

The Chris Silva factor was in play

With Chris Silva on the floor this season, the Gamecocks have outscored their opponents by 53 points. When Frank Martin speaks of Silva’s value, this is what the Carolina coach is referring to. USC isn’t going to win a whole lot of games when its All-SEC forward is watching from the bench.

Silva was all but non-existent in the Providence loss, collecting four fouls and not scoring until the 3:56 mark of the second half. A day later, he recorded his 17th career double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Silva still committed three fouls, but the last whistle didn’t come until the 5:09 mark of the second half and with the Gamecocks up 35. USC outscored GW by 35 with Silva on the floor.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Martin acknowledged that Silva’s been dealing with a minor shoulder injury since a late October scrimmage against Virginia Tech.

“It didn’t dislocate, but it was a pretty good strain on the rotator cuff muscle,” Martin said. “So he’s out of that harness that he wore since that day.

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“I said it going into the Norfolk State game, I’ve got to do a better job helping him right now because he’s too good a kid and too good a player. I thought he rebounded early in the game (against Providence) and then when he picked up the fouls, he kind of got frustrated, so it’s hard for him to get going.

“But it was good to see him … he played aggressive today. He played with confidence offensively and defensively. And no surprise, he stayed out of foul trouble.”

Since the beginning of last season, the Gamecocks are 7-12 in games when Silva commits four or more fouls. They’re 13-6 when he’s whistled for three or fewer, including a 3-0 mark this year.

USC played 70 minutes of solid basketball

Even without Silva in the mix, the Gamecocks led the Friars until the 9:43 mark of the second half. From there, USC was outscored by eight. When the Gamecocks returned to the floor, they jumped out to an 18-0 lead and never looked back in a 35-point rout of George Washington.

Providence’s two losses this season have come against No. 9 Michigan (5-0) and Wichita State (2-3).

“We practiced pretty good coming into the Providence game,” Martin said. “I think Providence is a real good basketball team. We basically played a road game and controlled the game for basically 30 minutes.

“And then foul trouble (kicked in). Our guards, they’re all first-year guys for the most part, with the exception of (Hassani) Gravett, so defending our way, they’re not doing it as well as they’re capable of doing it yet.

“The most important thing for me (Sunday) was we didn’t pout. We didn’t hang our heads, we didn’t dwell on the fact that we lost a game that we had a chance to win (Saturday). We came out with enthusiasm and discipline and we stayed out of foul trouble for the most part. That for me is growth. That’s what I was looking for.”

Time to re-evaluate this team’s shooting potential?

Two weeks ago, South Carolina attempted 18 3-pointers — and made none of them in a win over USC Upstate. Such a performance hadn’t happened to the Gamecocks since Martin’s first game on the Colonial Life Arena sideline. It hinted at a rough season beyond the arc, something that’s been on the horizon since Frank Booker’s departure.

Remove that 0-for from the stat-sheet and you have a competent shooting team. South Carolina’s made 38.2 percent of its 3s over the last four games. The best 3-point shooting team of the Martin era came in 2013-14. Those Gamecocks made 37.8 percent of their tries.

What’s a reason behind the improvement? T.J. Moss, who missed the season’s first two games with an injury, has not only played a steady backup point guard, but he’s become a threat from outside. The freshman is shooting a team-best 55 percent from 3 (6 of 11).

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Lawson’s award could be the first of many

A.J. Lawson was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday after a numbers explosion over three games — 47 points, 19 rebounds, 16 assists.

He’s USC’s first SEC FOW since Sindarius Thornwell in March 2014. Thornwell did it three times that season. Lawson could very well match or exceed that. In the very least, Lawson’s going to have the basketball in his hands enough to have the opportunity.

According to KenPom.com, Lawson is being used on a team-best 32.2 percent of Carolina’s possessions. That ranks the rookie as the 46th-most used player in the country. Thornwell’s usage rate topped at 29.0 his senior season.

Next game

Who: Wofford at South Carolina

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 26

Where: Colonial Life Arena

TV: SEC Network Plus (via the WatchESPN app)

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