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MBB: South Carolina keeps away from Coastal Carolina



SOUTH CAROLINA MEN'S BASKETBALL

South Carolina held off Coastal Carolina 85-79 behind the career highs of A.J. Lawson and Hassani Gravett.

Coastal Carolina was eight in the first half when South Carolina got off to a cold start. Six consecutive three-point possessions (five threes plus one and one) tied the game.

In a game that did not have much defense, it was the few sections where the Gamecocks could string attacks together. They kept the Chanticleers goalless over the last 3:37 of the first half and put a 50-41 lead into the break. However, this lead was short-lived, as the Gamecocks recorded six sales in the first six minutes of the second half. The Chanticleers eliminated the deficit and took the lead with 59:58 and 1

3:53 left.

The game ended at 61 as the media-timeout teams of less than 12 years crowded together. After the break, South Carolina had a post for Chris Silva. Silva scored a light hit, reviving the Gamecocks. After a missed shot Lawson was fouled during the rebound. He made the front end of the one-on-one game and missed the second, but Silva grabbed the offensive rebound and plunged. Silva played a strong defense and forced a missed layup, which led to a free-throw by Lawson. After another missed shot Lawson found a volunteer jumper from Silva open for a 9-0 run. That was the difference, and South Carolina fended off Coastal Carolina.

This track was a blast of dominance that Silva is capable of but failed this season. Silva finished with only nine points and five rebounds, but had a career high of six blocks in only 19 minutes.

"I tried to go back to what I once was and enjoy the game," Silva said. "I thought and put too much pressure on myself. I somehow forgot how to enjoy the game and the coach reminded me.

South Carolina defeated again defensively, although this time it got its defense largely from its offense. Lawson and Gravett both had fouls against Zac Cuthbertson, Coastal Carolina's leading scorer. Cuthbertson, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds, had to sit nine minutes before the end, the best defense South Carolina played in the game by giving 40 rebounds and 13 second chances.

"We are a soft basketball team," said Frank Martin. "We do not recover and do not make competitive games on balls."

South Carolina somehow kept Coastal Carolina shooting at 39 percent, forcing 18 envelopes, but it was not easy. The most common sight in the defense was one of the veterans, Silva, Gravett, or Maik Kotsar, who brought the newbies in to get them in the right position.

"Since there are so many young people who are trying so hard to do what they are asked to do, and guard the match, they do not talk that much," said Gravett. "Someone has to do it. Guys like me and Chris and Maik, who were here and know the system, have to be loud.

South Carolina made 10-26 out of three races, but only 2-8 in the second half. Instead, it was the free throw line on which South Carolina wreaked its damage. It shot 33 free throws for the game and 24 in the second half alone. Lawson tried 15 free throws, a career high. He made 11 to 73 percent out of the line, much better than the 50 percent he shot. The repeated rides to the line (plus 10 second-half) meant that South Carolina in the second half only attempted 18 field goals statistical curiosity.

Lawson and Gravett were sensational. Lawson scored 25 points (11-15 from the free throw line), six rebounds and two assists. Gravett, who started the Wofford game, returned to his sixth man role and was the reassuring influence that South Carolina needed. He 23 points, 15 in the second half and four assists. Coastal Carolina Cliff Ellis said the plan was to focus the defense on the guards and risk the gunshots.

"We know with this team that the game is going through Silva and Kotsar," said Ellis. "You have to let others beat you. Gravett did what he should do. At the same time Lawson played well.

Notes:

On Friday, Silva has been named one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award. The award is given to seniors who have excelled in four areas: community, teaching, character and competition. … South Carolina shook the grid and added newcomers T.J. Moss and Keyshawn Bryant next to Lawson, Kotsar and Silva. This allowed Gravett to return to the bank and reduce the role of Tre Campbell. … freshman Alanzo Frink saw the first season of his career. He checked in at 14:11 to play in the first half and ended up with a rebound, assist and steal in nine minutes, all in the first half. … The number of participants was 9,315. … The next game of South Carolina is the 5th of December in Wyoming.

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