The season isn’t over yet.
Even though the South Carolina men’s basketball team (6-12, 4-10 SEC) remains very much on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Gamecocks showed Saturday afternoon in Athens, Georgia, that they still have plenty of fight within them.
Playing with the kind of ferocity head coach Frank Martin has searched for all season, the Gamecocks snapped a six-game losing streak and soundly defeated Tom Crean’s Georgia Bulldogs, 91-70.
The win marked the second time Frank Martin and the Gamecocks have defeated Georgia this season and the 10th consecutive victory over the Bulldogs since Jan. 4 2017.
3 Observations from USC-UGA
1. Tighter defense
Coming into Saturday’s contest, Georgia ranked fourth in the SEC with 78 points scored per game and third in the conference with a 46.2% team field-goal percentage. The Bulldogs’ star point guard Sahvir Wheeler was coming off the first triple-double in Georgia program history.
Yet the USC defense found a way to bottle them up.
A common refrain from Martin this season has been the need to more connected and more physical defense. Known as a defensive wizard, Martin tweaked his high-intensity defensive system mid-season into more of a matchup-zone scheme that he jokingly calls “the Cuban pack-line.”
The Gamecocks have struggled throughout much of the season to properly execute within that defense, recently giving up back-to-back 93 point games against Tenneessee and Missouri.
But the Gamecocks defended at a much higher level against the Bulldogs, especially in the first half, where USC held Georgia to just 29 points and 37% shooting from the field. At one point late in the half, Georgia went more than six minutes without scoring.
One of the keys to stopping Georgia was neutralizing Wheeler, who scored a career-high 27 points in the game before he notched his triple-double. Against USC, Wheeler shot just 2-for-13 and scored only seven points. He still racked up five assists and seven rebounds but did little damage on the scoring end.
2. Couisnard, Hannibal lead backcourt
Sophomore guard Trae Hannibal surprisingly missed USC’s last game at Mississippi State, with Martin providing no explanation other than, “It’s been a hard year, hard moment, hard stretch, and I just gave him a day off.”
Whatever the reason for his absence, Hannibal returned to the court with a renewed energy against the Bulldogs. The burly 6-foot-3, 220-pound guard played with physicality and attacked the rim on both ends of the court. He led the Gamecocks with eight rebounds in addition to scoring 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and tallying five assists.
Fellow guard Jermaine Couisnard was even better from an offensive standpoint, scoring a game-high 23 points and snapping a shooting slump with four 3-pointers in eight attempts.
3. Minott starts
Martin tweaked the starting lineup Saturday, giving hulking 6-foot-9, 280-pound freshman Tre-Vaughn Minott his first career start over sophomore Wildens Leveque.
Minott, who joined the team mid-season from NBA Academy Latin America, helped USC jump out to a quick 12-4 lead with six points and three rebounds in the game’s opening minutes. Though Minott would go on to play just 10 minutes, he provided a much-needed early boost and a physical presence in the paint .
Next USC basketball game
Who: South Carolina (6-12, 4-10 SEC) vs. No. 20 Arkanasas (18-5, 10-4)
Where: Colonial Life Arena
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Watch: SEC Network