USC wins first game in December to close non-conference play

COLUMBIA, S.C. – After a month of defeats, South Carolina was anxious for a win – no matter who it came against.

The Gamecocks got 22 points from freshman A.J. Lawson and 21 from Chris Silva to end a four-game losing streak with a 97-46 rout of Division II North Greenville on Monday.

”This felt really good,” Lawson said.

Especially after South Carolina’s (5-7) struggles since its last win on Nov. 30, a stretch that included defeats to No. 2 Michigan, No. 4 Virginia and state rival Clemson. It made no difference to the Gamecocks if the opponent was from a lower division or the NBA, they just wanted success.

”It was important,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. ”At this place, losing is unacceptable and no one was in a real good mood.”

Things lightened up quickly against the Crusaders, who fell behind 13-2 and never rallied.

Competition will pick up quickly, too, as the Gamecocks start Southeastern Conference play Saturday night.

”We practiced really hard and played really hard at practice,” Silva said. ”It didn’t always translate in the game.”

Still, the contest, which North Greenville (1-10) counted as an exhibition, turned into one right away as the bigger, stronger Gamecocks came out fast. Tre Campbell and A.J. Lawson had 3-pointers in the first four minutes as South Carolina opened up a big lead.

There were the predictable, on court moments where South Carolina’s SEC pedigree was obvious. North Greenville sophomore guard Daniko Jackson, at 5-foot-10, dribbled to the basket where 6-9 Silva and 7-1 Jason Cudd were waiting.

Jackson’s shot attempt was quickly knocked away.

Then again, the Crusaders kept their heads up. After North Greenville’s Roderick Howell blocked 6-9 Felipe Haase shot, he took off down the court and finished an alley-oop bucket after a sweet pass from Ryan Mobley.

By then, South Carolina was ahead by 21 points and not letting up.

These Division II contests have been a tradition of Martin, a high-profile shout out to in-state programs that generally fly under the radar. South Carolina has played Coker, Francis Marion, Lander and Limestone the previous few seasons, all in late December – and all, as expected, sizeable Gamecock wins.

North Greenville coach Chad Lister appreciated the first-class treatment and opportunity his team got from South Carolina. ”It was a good day for us,” he said. ”And that’s hard to admit when you lose as bad as we lost.”

Caleb Arrington had 13 points to lead North Greenville.

Things turned scary for the Gamecocks in the second half when Silva, a senior who was the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year last winter, hit the floor hard and did not get up quickly. Martin and the training staff came out to check and Silva eventually walked it off to the bench. He stayed on the sidelines the rest of the way.

Silva said his knee was fine. ”It will be sore,” he said.

KEY STATS
> South Carolina had four players in double figures in the win, led by Lawson (22) and Silva (21) each with a 20-point outing.
> The Gamecocks were solid at the foul line, hitting 24-of-28 attempts at the line, 85.7 percent.  That mark was Carolina’s best of the season in games with 15 or more attempts at the foul line.

NOTABLES
> Graduate student guard Tre Campbell posted his second double-figure scoring game of the season vs. the Crusaders, as he connected on four attempts, including three 3-pointers.  It was his highest scoring output since posting 15 against Stony Brook on Nov 9.
> Rookie guard A.J. Lawson posted his third 20-point game of the season vs. NGU, and the performance marked the fifth time he has led or shared the team lead in scoring this season.
> Fellow rookie, Keyshawn Bryant, matched his season high with eight made baskets, including his first 3-pointer of the season.  Bryant also dished two assists and collected a season high three steals.
> Senior forward Chris Silva posted his second 20-point performance of the season with a season high 21, marking his seventh career game with 20 or more points.  Silva also pulled down nine rebounds, and was a perfect 8-of-8 at the foul line.

UP NEXT
South Carolina begins SEC action Saturday when it travels to face Florida in Gainesville.  Tip time is set for 7 p.m. ET between the former SEC East foes, with the matchup set for broadcast on ESPN2 with Tom Hart (play-by-play) and Sean Farnham (analyst) on the call.

Categories: Local Sports, Sports, USC Gamecocks

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