USC Men's Basketball

Gamecocks lock down Wyoming, ride historic defensive performance to blowout win

Any chance of South Carolina repeating its worst loss of last season was put to bed early Sunday afternoon.

As in like 12:10 p.m.

The Gamecocks jumped out to a huge lead and didn’t let up en route to a 66-32 suffocating of Wyoming at Colonial Life Arena.

The victory accomplishes two things USC failed to do last year: Have a win steak in non-conference play, beat the Cowboys.

Wyoming’s 73-64 upset in Laramie last December — one of Wyoming’s eight wins all season — beat the Gamecocks again in March when they failed to make the postseason. It was a résumé killer, even for a team that finished fourth in the SEC. Eleven months later, USC didn’t risk it happening again.

“Last year’s game was on our mind,” said A.J. Lawson, who scored eight of his co-game-high 12 points in the first five minutes, “because we lost last year and we kind of had that on our shoulders. We wanted to come out with high energy and carry that throughout the game. And that helped us win today.”

The Gamecocks (2-0) were up 10-3 after the first four minutes, 20-7 after the first eight and 31-8 after the first 12. Sleepy South Carolina fans still getting over the football loss to Appalachian State on Saturday got hit with some life from Frank Martin’s bunch.

Hot shooting got it going, but smothering defense played out as the dominant storyline.

Wyoming’s 32 points are the fewest allowed by a South Carolina team in the shot clock era (1985-86-present). The Cowboys made just nine field goals — fewest against a Martin-coached Carolina team — and none in the second half until the 12:18 mark.

“I thought we were real good defensively,” Martin said. “I thought we had great energy leading into the game. I thought we played with great energy throughout the game defensively.”

The Cowboys shot all of 23.1 percent, meaning South Carolina has held both its foes this season under 25 percent from the field.

“We were over-matched physically,” said Cowboys coach Allen Edwards, “and obviously talent-wise.”

After Lawson, the Gamecocks had three other double-digit scorers — Jermaine Couisnard (12), Jair Bolden (11) and Alanzo Frink (10).

And one

Justin Minaya’s return from a knee injury has been a smooth ride. After a double-double Wednesday, the redshirt sophomore was the lead defender against Wyoming’s Hunter Maldanado and held him to 10 points. The 6-foot-7 Maldanado had 32 points in the Cowboys’ opener.

“I think I played pretty good on defense,” Minaya said. “I think we all did. I think everybody was in line helping me out. Everybody was talking, communicating on screens.”

Personal foul

After jumping out to a 31-8 lead with 8:01 left in the first half, the Gamecocks closed the period by missing five of six shots and only scoring four points.

Tip-in

Wildens Leveque, who missed the first game with a swollen big toe, played and had four points, four rebounds and a block in 15 minutes.

“I think he’s going to be a real good player,” Martin said. “I really do. I love his energy. Absolutely love it.”

NEXT

Who: Cleveland State at South Carolina

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Colonial Life Arena

TV: SEC Network-Plus via the WatchESPN app

Box score

WYOMING (1-1) Mueller 1-5 0-1 2, Thompson 1-6 0-0 3, Maldonado 2-7 4-6 10, Hendricks 1-6 0-0 2, Milton 2-5 0-0 4, Porter 0-0 1-2 1, Turner 0-1 0-0 0, Banks 1-1 2-3 4, Foster 0-4 0-0 0, Marble 1-1 1-2 4, Taylor 0-3 2-4 2. Totals 9-39 10-18 32.

SOUTH CAROLINA (2-0) Frink 4-7 2-4 10, Kotsar 1-4 0-0 2, Minaya 1-6 0-0 3, Lawson 4-10 1-3 12, Bolden 4-6 0-0 11, Nelson 1-1 0-0 2, McCreary 2-4 0-0 4, Leveque 1-1 2-2 4, Henry 0-0 0-0 0, Moss 1-6 1-2 4, Couisnard 5-11 1-1 12, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Hannibal 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 25-59 7-12 66.

Halftime—South Carolina 35-16. 3-Point Goals—Wyoming 4-17 (Maldonado 2-5, Marble 1-1, Thompson 1-3, Foster 0-4, Hendricks 0-4), South Carolina 9-27 (Bolden 3-4, Lawson 3-7, Moss 1-3, Couisnard 1-5, Minaya 1-5, Frink 0-1, Hannibal 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Wyoming 21 (Thompson 7), South Carolina 39 (Frink 7). Assists—Wyoming 5 (Banks, Thompson, Maldonado, Marble, Milton 1), South Carolina 14 (Minaya 3). Total Fouls—Wyoming 12, South Carolina 20.

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Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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