Carolina Travels To UMass For Midweek Matchup
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina (5-3) travels to the wintry weather of the Northeast to face UMass (5-3) in its first true road contest of the season on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET in Amherst. Tom McCarthy (play-by-play) and Chris Walker (analyst) will have the call for the CBS Sports Network broadcast, and Derek Scott (play-by-play) and Casey Manning (analyst) will be over the air for the Gamecock Radio Network.
> South Carolina travels to the wintry weather of the Northeast to face UMass in its first true road contest of the season. The meeting is just the third all-time between the two schools and the first in Amherst.
> Gamecock head coach Frank Martin began his college coaching career in the state of Massachusetts at Northeastern in 2000 under then-head coach Ron Everhart.
> Anya Martin, wife of Carolina head coach Frank Martin, was a track and field standout at UMass during her time in college. A hurdles and relay specialist, Anya captured several event titles during her career, including the Atlantic 10 Indoor 55 meter hurdles title. She was a team captain in 1997-98, and set school records in the 55 meter and 100 meter hurdles events during her career.
> Carolina snapped its two-game losing streak when it posted a 74-65 victory over George Washington on Sunday in Columbia. Senior forward Maik Kotsar continued his stretch of strong play, leading the Gamecocks with 17 points and 9 rebounds, pushing his double-figure scoring streak to five-straight games, the longest such stretch of his career.
> Wednesday’s matchup at UMass begins a stretch where Carolina will play three of its next four games away from home. Following the contest vs. the Minutemen, Carolina returns to Columbia to host Houston, before consecutive road contests at ACC opponents Clemson and Virginia.
SENIOR LEADERSHIP FROM KOTSAR
> Senior forward Maik Kotsar has played great basketball to start the season. Kotsar is such a strong component for the Gamecocks on the defensive end, but of late, his offense and rebounding have been key. Kotsar scored in double figures in all three games last week, extending his career-best streak to five straight games with 10 or more points. Kotsar led the Gamecocks with 12 points, three assists, two blocks and three steals, while also pulling down seven rebounds vs. Wichita State (Nov. 26), and he was strong again vs. UNI (Nov. 27), scoring 12 with two blocks, en route to Cancun Challenge All-Tournament Team honors. Kotsar returned to Columbia to pace Carolina with 17 points, nine rebounds and another two-block performance in the home win over George Washington. He was near perfect from the field, hitting 8-of-9 attempts from the floor, and he also collected Carolina’s only steal in the game vs. the Colonials. Kotsar also led the Gamecocks with 36.7 minutes per game during the stretch.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
36.6% – South Carolina is holding opponents to just 36.6 percent from the field through the first eight games of the season. That mark is fourth in the SEC and 22nd nationally.
2.1 – Sophomore guard AJ Lawson ranks second in the SEC with an assist to turnover ratio of 2.1.
13.00 – Carolina is pulling down an average of 13.0 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks second in the SEC and 43rd nationally.
19th – Led by Kotsar’s 11 blocks on the year, Carolina is 19th nationally with 43 blocks through the first eight games.
250 – South Carolina head coach Frank Martin captured the 250th win of his celebrated career in the win over Gardner-Webb on Nov. 22. Martin’s team won 117 games at Kansas State, and his Gamecocks have captured 134 victories.
51.2% – South Carolina has hit 30 shot attempts in both of its last two contests, a combined 60-of-117 from the floor, 51.2 percent.
SCOUTING THE MINUTEMEN
> UMass is led by head coach Matt McCall in his third season. McCall began his career as a graduate assistant at Florida before spending time as an assistant coach with the Gators, and at FAU, and as the head coach at UT Chattanooga prior to his time at UMass.
> T.J. Weeks paces three players averaging double-figures for the Minutemen with 15.5 points per outing. Carl Pierre (11.9) and Tre Mitchell (11.6) are also in double figures.
> Sean East is 48th in the nation with 5.3 assists per outing, and he is 32nd nationally with an assist to turnover ratio of 2.80.
> The Minutemen began the season with five-straight wins, however, UMass is currently on a three-game losing streak, most recently suffering an 82-57 road loss at Rutgers last Friday.
NOTES TO KNOW
> South Carolina is led by eighth-year head coach Frank Martin. Martin, the 2017 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year, owns a 250-163 record in his 13th season as a head coach, and a 133-109 record in his eighth season at Carolina.
> Joining Martin on the sidelines is a veteran staff, including assistant coaches Perry Clark (seventh season), Chuck Martin (third season) and Bruce Shingler (fourth season), director of basketball operations Andy Assaley (eighth season) and strength and conditioning coach Scott Greenawalt (eighth season), and several support staff members.
> South Carolina returns a core group from last season’s squad, while welcoming seven newcomers to Columbia, including five freshmen – Trey Anderson, Jalyn McCreary, Trae Hannibal, Wildens Leveque and Mike Green, transfer Seventh Woods (North Carolina/not eligible this season due to NCAA transfer rules) and graduate transfer Micaiah Henry (Tennessee Tech/immediately eligible).
> Carolina’s top returning scorer, and 2019 SEC All-Freshman Team honoree, is sophomore guard AJ Lawson, who scored 13.4 points per outing last season, while dishing 2.9 assists per game. Over the summer, Lawson competed for Team Canada at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece, leading the Canadians with 16.7 points per outing, including an event-high 31 points vs. Senegal.
> The Gamecocks lost two starters to injury early last season in sophomore guard Justin Minaya (missed final 27 games of the season) and rookie guard TJ Moss (missed 25 games last season); the duo have both fully recovered and are back on the court for the Garnet and Black.
> R-junior guard Jair Bolden, who was unable to play last season due to NCAA transfer rules (transferred in the summer of 2018 after playing two seasons at George Washington), will bring veteran leadership and proven scoring ability to the court this season for Carolina, as the Brooklyn, N.Y., native averaged 11.2 points per game as a sophomore for the Colonials, while also pacing the team with 98 assists on the season.
> In non-conference play, Carolina hosted five-straight matchups to start the campaign, before traveling to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge, for matchups against Wichita State, and Northern Iowa. In December, the Gamecocks host George Washington, before a matchup at UMass, followed by a home contest against Houston and consecutive road games at Clemson and Virginia.
> In SEC action, the Gamecocks open league play on Jan. 7 at Colonial Life Arena against No. 6/6 Florida, while also hosting No. 2/2 Kentucky, No. 22/24 LSU, and No. -/25 Tennessee in conference play (rankings listed are preseason).
> Carolina recently announced it will add throwback uniforms to its lineup for game attire this upcoming season. Fans can get their first glimpse of the throwback uniforms when the Gamecocks host Houston on Dec. 8 at Colonial Life Arena.
> South Carolina returns 43.9 percent of scoring from a year ago, 48.3 percent of its made field goals, and 45.7 percent of its rebounding, following the graduation of All-SEC forward Chris Silva, who led the Gamecocks with 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and 150 made field goals last season.
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson is Carolina’s top returning scorer after contributing 13.4 points per outing last season. Lawson, who was named to the Jerry West Award Watch List last month, posted 18 double-figure scoring games last season, including six 20-point performances.
> South Carolina improved to 83-29 all-time in season openers, and a perfect 8-0 under the direction of Frank Martin in season lidlifters, when the Gamecocks posted a 77-55 win over North Alabama Nov. 6 at Colonial Life Arena. Redshirt-sophomore forward Justin Minaya (17) and r-junior guard Jair Bolden (14) scored in double figures.
> R-freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard made his college debut vs. North Alabama, putting together a strong showing with nine points, four rebounds, two assists and a block in 22 minutes of action. Couisnard missed the exhibition vs. CIU on Oct. 30 due to illness.
> Carolina improved to 2-0 on the young season when it posted a 66-32 victory over Wyoming at Colonial Life Arena on Nov. 10. Four were in double figures for the Gamecocks, but the story of the game was the Carolina defense, which held Wyoming to just nine made field goals in the contest.
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson and r-freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard each tallied 12 points to pace the Gamecocks in the win over the Cowboys. Sophomore forward Alanzo Frink netted a then-career best 10 points, and r-junior guard Jair Bolden added 11.
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson hit seven buckets, including a pair of 3s, and was a career best 12-of-13 at the foul line to post a new career high 28 points in leading the Gamecocks over Cleveland State on Nov. 15 at Colonial Life Arena. Classmate Alanzo Frink posted the first double-double of his career as well, scoring 11 with 10 boards, including eight on the offensive glass.
> Despite three Gamecocks in double-figures, including a game-high 22 points from sophomore guard AJ Lawson, Boston U posted a 78-70 win over Carolina on Nov. 19 at Colonial Life Arena. The Terriers connected on nine made 3-pointers, and hit an opponent season high 42.2% (27-64) from the floor.
> The Gamecocks rebounded from their first loss of the season to post a 74-69 hard-fought win over visiting Gardner-Webb Nov. 22 at Colonial Life Arena. Five were in double-figures for the Gamecocks, led by rookie guard Jermaine Couisnard and sophomore guard AJ Lawson’s 16 points each. Senior forward Maik Kotsar (11), junior Jair Bolden (10) and sophomore Alanzo Frink (10) were also in double figures. It was the first time this season that five Gamecocks have reached double figures in a game.
> South Carolina suffered a 70-47 loss to Wichita State in its opening neutral-site game at the Cancun Challenge on Nov. 26 at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. Senior forward Maik Kotsar was the only player in double figures for Carolina, finishing with 12 points. He also had seven rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks in a team-high 36 minutes.
> Senior forward Maik Kotsar was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Cancun Challenge, after scoring 12 points in each matchup at the event. Kotsar also led Carolina in the game vs. Wichita State, collecting seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and three steals in 36 minutes of action.
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson scored 20 points, his third 20+ outing of the season, against UNI (Nov. 27). Lawson connected on his first four shot attempts in the game, and finished with eight made field goals, matching his career high.
43.9% – South Carolina returns 43.9 percent of its scoring from last season following the departure of All-SEC forward Chris Silva, who led Carolina with a total of 486 points – 15.2 points per game – last season.
17/11 – In his return to the court for the first time in almost a year after missing the final 27 games of last season due to injury, r-sophomore forward Justin Minaya posted team highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds for the first double-double of his career vs. North Alabama on Nov. 6.
49.1% – South Carolina was solid from the field vs. UNA, hitting 28-of-57 attempts, 49.1%, including 54.1% of its two-point attempts.
23 – Sophomore guard AJ Lawson led Carolina in its lone exhibition contest with a team high 23 points. Lawson connected on 7-of-11 attempts from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointers.
32 – Carolina held Wyoming to just 32 points in the non-conference matchup on Nov. 10. The mark was the lowest opponent point total during the seven+ seasons under Coach Martin.
12 – Rookie forward Wildens Leveque was a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free throw line for the first double-digit outing of his career, as he posted 12 points in Carolina’s Nov. 15 win over Cleveland State.
7 – Carolina committed just seven turnovers in the win over Gardner-Webb. It was the fewest this season, and tied for the fifth-fewest under the direction of head coach Frank Martin.
500 – Senior forward Maik Kotsar recorded the 500th rebound of his career in the win over Gardner-Webb on Nov. 22. Of his 522 career boards, 201 of those – 38.5 percent – are offensive rebounds. The senior big had a crucial offensive rebound tip-out in the win over Gardner-Webb with just 21 seconds remaining and the Gamecocks up two. Junior guard Jair Bolden collected the tip-out, and sank a free throw to push the Gamecock lead to three points with 15 seconds to play.
29 – Carolina forced 29 Cleveland State turnovers in the matchup vs. the Vikings on Nov. 15. That mark was the most ever by a Gamecock squad under the direction of Frank Martin, and ties for the third-most all-time by a Carolina team (happened three other times, most recently vs. ETSU on Nov. 24, 2002).
COMING UP NEXT
> Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena on Sunday when it will host Houston for a Noon ET matchup. Richard Cross (play-by-play) and Daymeon Fishback (analyst) will have the call for the ESPNU broadcast vs. the Cougars.