By Josh Hyber/Photo by Allen Sharpe
South Carolina’s Monday afternoon matinee against the Conference Carolinas basement dweller turned out to be exactly what it was intended for — an easy matchup for the Gamecocks against an inferior opponent in a relaxed setting before SEC play begins.
And for the Gamecocks, it came at a much-needed time.
In a game that was never in doubt at Colonial Life Arena, South Carolina (5-7) snapped a four-game losing streak and beat North Greenville (1-11) 97-46.
A.J. Lawson led the Gamecocks with 22 points, five rebounds and two assists while Chris Silva had 21 points (including his fourth 3 pointer of the season) and nine rebounds. Keyshawn Bryant added 19 points.
Only two North Greenville players scored in double figures.
“Winning is always better than the alternative, but seeing the ball go in the basket, defensively, being able to do things … We were active defensively today,” Gamecock head coach Frank Martin said. “I thought we protected the rim a little bit better than we have in the past. [And] we protected the paint.”
The coach said the team wasn’t in a good place this past week because of the recent losing streak, even though it came against tough Wyoming, Michigan, Virginia and Clemson teams.
“Regardless of who it’s against, losing is unacceptable,” he said. “No one was in a real good mood. I can tell you the coaches haven’t been in a real good mood. I can tell you Chris Silva hasn’t been in a good mood. Hassani [Gravett] hasn’t been in a good mood.”
With just over seven minutes to go in regulation, with the Gamecocks leading by 46 points, at 83-37, Silva was injured while colliding with a Crusader player. He was down for several moments before a Gamecock trainer helped him off the court.
“I tried to take a charge and he came at me pretty hard and he kind of hit me in the knee,” Silva said. “And his elbow hit me in the throat, so I had some problems breathing. But my knee is fine. It’s just going to be sore. I’m good.”
The injury-depleted Gamecocks used the afternoon to finetune its game before it plays at Florida on Jan. 5 (7 p.m. on ESPN2) and returns home to play Mississippi State on Jan. 8 at 9 p.m.
South Carolina’s first double-digit lead came just four minutes into regulation, on a Lawson 3, and it was smooth sailing from there. Bryant swished a 3 one minute later to extend it to 14. An Hassani Gravett layup pushed it to 21 eight minutes before halftime.
“We just try to come out hard every game and play the game the same way and don’t take the game for granted, just because they’re a Division II school,” Bryant said. “That doesn’t mean anything. We still were going to play them like they’re one of the best schools in the country.”