Gamecocks Face Virginia On The Road Sunday
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina (7-4) travels to face Virginia (9-1) on Sunday in its final contest before the break for the holidays. Tip time in Charlottesville is set for 3 p.m. ET, with the matchup between the Gamecocks and Cavaliers set for broadcast on ABC with Jon Sciambi (play-by-play) and Jay Bilas (analyst) on the call. Derek Scott (play-by-play) and Casey Manning (analyst) will handle the call for the Gamecock Radio Network.
> South Carolina travels to face Virginia on Sunday in its final contest before the break for the holiday. The stretch concludes a span where the Gamecocks had three out of four on the road. The meeting between Carolina and UVa is the first in Charlottesville since the 2002 campaign (postseason NIT) and the first regular-season meeting there since Jan. 11, 1971.
> The matchup vs. Virginia is Carolina’s first vs. a ranked opponent this season, and its first matchup vs. a top 10 opponent since facing No. 1 Tennessee on Feb. 13, 2019.
> Martin is 31-44 (.413) against ranked opponents as a head coach. His teams have four wins over opponents ranked in the top five, and two wins over opponents who are ranked No. 1.
> Carolina claimed a Palmetto Series point with a big road win over instrastate rival and ACC opponent Clemson last Sunday at Littlejohn Coliseum. The 67-54 victory snapped a three-game Tiger win streak in the series, and was Carolina’s first at Littlejohn since 2011.
> In that Clemson victory, sophomore guard AJ Lawson scored a team high 20, along with 11 from senior forward Maik Kotsar and 10 from r-junior guard Jair Bolden to round out the Gamecocks in double figures. The 20-point effort was the fifth of its kind this season for Lawson, who is 11th in the SEC and leads the squad with 16.3 points per outing thus far.
> Senior forward Maik Kotsar now has seven double-figure scoring games this season, with all of those coming in the last eight games. He paces Carolina with 6.2 rebounds per game (15th in the SEC).
> The Gamecocks are 2-0 on the road this season, and are 24-33 (42.1%) in road contests dating back to the 2014-15 campaign.
THROUGH 11 GAMES …
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson paces the Gamecocks with 16.3 points per game, and he is also dishing a team high 2.7 assists per outing.
> Senior forward Maik Kotsar has scored 111 points through the first 11 games, 10.1 points per outing. His 6.2 rebounds per game lead the team and rank 15th in the SEC.
> The Gamecocks are holding opponents to just 37.9 percent from the floor, which ranks third in the SEC and 25th nationally.
> Carolina has dished at least 13 assists in nine games.
> R-freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard is averaging 2.6 assists per game. He is also solid at the charity stripe, having hit 15-of-19 attempts – 78.9% – thus far.
> Carolina has held its opponent to less than 40 percent from the field on six occassions, including holding Wyoming to 23.1 percent and only nine made field goals.
> Sophomore forward Alanzo Frink has hit a team best 64.7 percent (33-51) of his shot attempts.
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 recently scored in double figures in a career-best five-straight contests, starting with 14 points vs. Boston U (Nov. 19). He scored 11 points vs. Gardner-Webb (Nov. 22), before leading 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 (Dec. 1). 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 35.4 minutes per game during the stretch.
> Kotsar snapped his double-figure streak at UMass, however, he scored nine points, pulled down a team high nine rebounds, dished five assists and had three steals in 27 minutes of action. He also collected a crucial lose ball late in the contest on the defensive end.
> With a 12-point performance vs. Houston, Kotsar tallied his sixth game this season in double-figures (five games in double-figures last season), and he followed with 11 points in the road win at Clemson, with nine of those coming in the second half.
SCOUTING THE CAVALIERS
> Virginia enters Sunday’s matchup with a 9-1 record and a perfect 6-0 record in home games. The Cavaliers have won two-straight after suffering a 69-40 loss at Purdue on Dec. 4.
> UVa is 2-0 in ACC games this season after recording a 48-34 win at Syracuse in the season opener, and more recently a 56-47 victory over North Carolina on Dec. 8.
> Mamadi Diakite leads the team with 13.2 points per game, and Braxton Key’s 7.3 rebounds are a team best.
> Key missed three games due to injury, before returning in UVa’s most recent outing, playing seven minutes in the win vs. Stony Brook.
> The Cavaliers are holding opponents to just 32.1 percent from the floor this season, which leads the nation.
> UVa has not eclipsed the 70-point mark yet this season, and has allowed only two of its 10 opponents to score 55 points or more (Vermont, 55; Purdue, 69).
> South Carolina head coach Frank Martin is in his eighth season leading the Gamecocks and 13th season overall as a head coach in 2019-20. Martin, the 2017 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year (CollegeInsider.com), led South Carolina to its first Final Four and a school record 26 wins in 2016-17. In his 12 complete seasons as a head coach, Martin has led his teams to at least 21 wins seven times. Martin is a native of Miami, Fla., and a graduate of FIU.
> Prior to his time on the sidelines in the college ranks, Martin spent 15 years in high school coaching in Miami, Fla., including the last seven as a head coach. He was part of five state championships as an assistant at Miami Senior High School (1985-93), before earning two titles as the program’s head coach (1995-98). Highlighting Martin’s stint as the head coach of the program were consecutive 30-win seasons and consecutive Florida 6A State Championships in 1996 and 1997, with his 1997 squad earning a 36-1 overall record and ranking No. 4 in the USA Today Top 25 Poll. He also served as the head coach at North Miami Senior High School (1993-95) and one season at Booker T. Washington High School (1999-2000).
> Among active Division I head coaches, South Carolina’s Frank Martin holds the eighth-highest (tied with Villanova’s Jay Wright) NCAA Tournament winning percentage (.667) behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Texas Tech’s Chris Beard, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Kansas’ Bill Self and Virginia’s Tony Bennett.
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 253-164 record in his 13th season as a head coach, and a 136-110 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.
> 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 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).
> 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.
> 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, the fewest made field goals during the Frank Martin era.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> Carolina snapped its two-game losing streak when it posted a 74-65 victory over George Washington on Dec. 1 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.
> An 84-80 win at UMass marked the first road victory of the season for the Gamecocks Dec. 4 in Amherst. Sophomore forward Keyshawn Bryant made his season debut, scoring 13 points, and guard Jermaine Couisnard matched his season high with 16 points, as the duo provided a spark on both ends of the court off the bench in the win.
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson posted his fourth 20-point game of the season with a game-high 24 on eight bade baskets and six made free throws in the win at UMass.
> The Gamecocks recently suffered a home loss to Houston on Dec. 8. The Carolina offense hit just 32.3 percent from the field, and the Cougars claimed the road win. Senior forward Maik Kotsar led Carolina with 12 points, and sophomore guard AJ Lawson added 10 in the loss. Carolina hit six 3s vs. Houston, it’s highest output from beyond the arc since hitting 7-of-19 attempts from range vs. Northern Iowa.
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.
23 – Sophomore guard AJ Lawson led Carolina in its lone exhibition contest, a win over Columbia International, 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 541 career boards, 206 of those – 38.0 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).
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 136 victories.
13 – Sophomore guard Keyshawn Bryant made his season debut for the Gamecocks in the road victory at UMass (Dec. 4). He was a key component to the game, making an impact on both ends of the court. Bryant hit 5-of-9 attempts from the field, and finished with 13 points and two assists in 22 minutes of action.
COMING UP NEXT
> Carolina returns to Columbia to host Stetson on Dec. 30 following the holiday break. Tip time for that contest is set for 3 p.m. ET at Colonial Life Arena.