After a long and entertaining (well, not for the Gamecocks) football season, there’s now a new sport to turn our attention to: basketball.
Although the season has been underway for quite some time, games all over the NCAA have been getting cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19.
The Cocks have definitely not been immune to the coronavirus as the team has only completed four non-conference games (going 2-2) and two SEC contests thus far (beating Texas A&M and losing to LSU).
It would be fair to say the season actually got started for the Gamecocks on Jan. 2 when they took down Florida A&M 78-71 with a depleted roster. With that being their first game in almost a month, expectations weren’t quite there yet.
Shockingly, the Gamecocks crushed the Aggies in their first taste of real competition since the turn of the new year by the score of 78-54 with Lawson being the star in that one.
Going into the next game with all that positivity, the team received terrible news: head coach Frank Martin tested positive for the coronavirus for the second time.
I don’t care that they lost to LSU. Having to play without your leader after all this must have been tough, and I’m sure USC would’ve played better situational ball down the stretch if coach Martin was still on the bench. They gave a fantastic fight against one of the best teams in the SEC, and things are looking up as the season continues.
As for the women, they’ve fared just a tad better COVID wise. They played 11 games with six being out-of-conference games and five being SEC games.
Throwing out the shocking loss to NC State, this team has played the brand of basketball many expected it to play.
Seven of its wins came by 16 points or more as the Gamecocks continue to dominate college basketball.
USC’s recent thrashing of Vanderbilt, the last game I will be discussing this week, was a game where things got so out of hand the starters barely even played into the second half.
Considering how fun this squad is, I thought it would be great to include its players in my players of the week column.
Let’s get it started!
Player of the Week: Keyshawn Bryant
Welcome back to the team!
This LSU game was Bryant’s first since Dec. 5 against Houston, and he played just about as well as he ever has.
He dropped a career-high 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting. It was also his third career 20-point game.
Defensively, he added four blocks.
Yes, Bryant may have missed his last three shots along with failing to connect on two free throws down the stretch, but the team didn’t fare much better in that same time period. They couldn’t make a basket in the final 7:47 of regulation!
In all, Bryant helped carry the offensive load with Lawson in a game where Couisnard was MIA.
His athleticism was something the team missed as well.
Runner-up: A.J. Lawson
To be completely honest, I didn’t know where the hype with him was coming from after seeing his play the last few seasons.
These last couple games changed my opinion on him drastically.
Lawson went from a guy that coach Martin would take off the floor because he was THAT much of a liability on defense to a guy who has at least become more competent on that side in addition to being an elite scorer of the basketball.
His shot percentage may not have been as great against LSU (8 of 19) compared to other games, but he still is this team’s most valuable offensive piece.
Lawson scored 22, had five dimes and was able to steal the ball an impressive five times.
His three-point percentage was lacking in this one as well (4 of 14), but I still thought he played a solid game.
Honorable Mention: Victaria Saxton
Honestly, the women’s game against Vanderbilt was more of a practice as opposed to any kind of real competition, but it was nice to see Saxton succeed in this one when it’s usually Cooke and Boston stealing the show.
Saxton scored a team-high and career-high 20 points on 90% shooting (!) in only 21 minutes.
She’s definitely known as a Swiss Army knife because she can do it all, but it was nice to see her be more of a scorer in this one.