Gamecocks vs. Boston U in Cancun Challenge

Frank Martin

This was the kind of loss that cost the Gamecocks last season. 

After a solid start, the 1-0 Gamecocks lost to Stony Brook to start the 2018-19 campaign.  

A month later, at 4-3, South Carolina fell to Wyoming as part of a 5-7 non-conference schedule that ultimately caused the 16-16 Gamecocks to miss the NCAA Tournament. 

They had one of those types of losses again Tuesday night, falling to Boston University, 78-70, at Colonial Life Arena in the first round of the Cancun Challenge. 

The Gamecocks, 3-1, struggled all night offensively, shooting just 40 percent from the field, 37.5 in the second half. While Boston U hit nine 3s and shot 48 percent in the second half, South Carolina was just 4-of-22 from 3-point range and made only 12 of 21 free throws. 

PHOTOS: SC vs. Boston U in Cancun Challenge

AJ Lawson led the Gamecocks with 22 points, his second straight 20-point game. He got little help offensively, however, especially in the second half. Maik Kotsar had 14 points, 10 in the first half. Justin Minaya had 10. Jermaine Couisnard hit two of South Carolina's four 3s but was 2-of-10 from the field. 

Head coach Frank Martin chalked up the loss to the inexperience of his young team. 

“This week was a different level and we had to elevate our disciplines and our efforts," he said. "Boston returns every guy on their team … . They are an old team and they just went at us." 

Martin said his team was too passive on the court and in the huddle during timeouts. 

"We’ve got good guys in our locker room but it’s the first time we deal with real adversity and we became a very quiet in our feelings team," he said. "When I talk about immaturity … the harder the game got, the quieter our players got. We’ve got to grow up. We battled and tried but every time we tie there is an effort play and we lose on it." 

South Carolina led 38-35 at the half on Lawson's late 3 but Boston U started the second half with a 5-0 run to take the lead. Lawson tied it 45-45 but BU went on another run to regain the lead.  

The Terriers led 60-57 when Lawson's three-point play tied it again at 60-60, but Boston hit another clutch 3 and kept driving the lane during a 9-0 run over the next four minutes. 

Lawson and Minaya tried to bring the Gamecocks back over the final three minutes, but Boston U got a clutch layup from Max Mahoney and the Terriers hit seven of eight free throws down the stretch.

Lawson said the Gamecocks settled for too many 3-point attempts late in the game. Guards Jair Bolden, TJ Moss and Couisnard were a combined 6-for-26 from the field and just 2-for-12 from 3.  

"We've got to be more aggressive," Lawson said. "Sometimes the 3s might be open and we get trigger happy. We’ve got to be more aggressive and drive it." 

"As we started missing shots, our feelings got hurt and they put our guys on skates," Martin said. "When the game got deep, we couldn’t screen them and guard them. That’s what happens with experience and immaturity." 

The Gamecocks entered the game third in the nation in opponents field goal percentage (29 percent) and scoring defense, but gave up easy baskets all night against the Patriot League Terriers. Boston U, 3-2, had 18 second-chance points and 30 points in the paint. 

“It was just not being connected on defense," Minaya said. "We weren’t on the same page, just not moving as well as we should have been." 

Martin said his team was "abysmal" with ball-screen defense. 

"Obviously, we didn’t spend enough practice time on that. We have to get better at that," he said.  

Boston U. gave the Gamecocks a fight in the first half behind five 3-pointers and strong offensive rebounding. The Terriers had 13 second-chance points off 10 offensive rebounds in the first half while South Carolina shot just 43 percent from the floor.  

The Terriers led much of the first half but the Gamecocks fought back on the strength of 10 first-half points from both Lawson and Kotsar. BU led 23-20 when Lawson it a 3 for his first points of the half. Kotsar then hit consecutive baskets in the paint to tie the game. 

Boston U led 32-29 with 2:16 left in the half but Lawson led another Gamecock run. His jumper in the lane gave South Carolin a 35-34 lead, and he hit another 3 with three seconds left to give the Gamecocks a 38-35 halftime advantage. 

Though disappointed in the play of his team, Martin took the loss in stride and expects his young team to learn from the early-season loss. 

“If anyone thought we were going to go 31-0, I appreciate your enthusiasm but that’s not reality," he said. "We have a good group of guys. You either learn to win or learn to lose. We got challenged by a real good basketball team and we didn’t handle it very well. What we have to work really hard on is growing up."