COLUMBIA — They won.
South Carolina claimed its season-opener over USC Upstate Tuesday, 65-52. Their defense helped a 10-minute Spartans scoreless stretch that spawned a 20-0 Gamecock run, which was all the room they needed.
So they won, and did it despite only dressing nine players. It will get better.
They’re counting on it.
“We defended pretty well today, rebounded fairly well,” coach Frank Martin said. “Offensively, we didn’t play bad, we just didn’t make shots. Those are things with first-year guys we’re going to have to battle.”
* Freshman Keyshawn Bryant came in with buzzwords such as “dynamic” and “athletic.” His first college bucket was a soaring one-handed dunk from the left wing, and he ended with a game-high 21 points.
“The man can jump out the gym. And any time he’s able to attack the rim, he definitely will,” guard Hassani Gravett said. “You’ll see a lot more of that.”
* The Gamecocks had 50 rebounds. Gravett, a backup point guard, had a team-high 12 while Chris Silva had 11, part of his double-double (10 points).
* With only nine players available, everybody had to play a lot of minutes. USC got at least 21 minutes from everyone and didn’t even get to sophomore center Jason Cudd.
* USC missed all 18 of its 3-point attempts, something it hadn’t done since the first game of Martin’s tenure seven years ago. Throw in 10 missed free throws and it was enough to grab the Advil.
“We got some concerns with the offense,” said Silva, who scored 11 points but only hit two field goals. “We’re not executing well.”
* New point guard Tre Campbell struggled, with no assists and two turnovers in 28 minutes. He was 1-of-7 from the field.
“He’s only practiced two days in the last 15,” Martin said, pointing out Campbell sprained his ankle and then re-aggravated it.
He’s hoping that the player he brought in will get back to what he was doing before the injury, instead of regressing to the habits they got him out of once he enrolled.
T.J. Moss and Alanzo Frink are injured while Nathan Nelson was sick. Jermaine Couisnard is still trying to become eligible while new walk-on Raymond Borup hasn’t yet had his paperwork cleared. Evan Hinson won’t come around until football season is over.
It’s a thin bench that won’t get much thicker.
The Gamecocks host Stony Brook Friday in the first round of the Naismith Memorial Tipoff Classic. They’ll also host Norfolk State next week before heading to Connecticut to finish the tournament, where they’ll play Providence and then either George Washington or Michigan.
Stony Brook beat George Washington Tuesday.