Gamecocks Open SEC Tournament Action Thursday Night
NASHVILLE – South Carolina (18-13, 10-8 SEC/6 seed) opens 2020 SEC Tournament action on Thursday evening (approx. 9:30 p.m. ET/SEC Network) vs. the winner of the 11-seed Arkansas vs. 14-seed Vanderbilt contest, which will be played at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday night. The Gamecocks split a pair of games vs. Vandy during the regular season, with each squad winning on its homecourt, while Carolina picked up a road win at Arkansas in the only matchup between the two schools during the 2020 league campaign.
Arena: Bridgestone Arena (19,395)
Broadcast: SEC Network
Play-By-PLay: Tom Hart
Analyst: Andy Kennedy
Sidelines: Alyssa Lang
Radio: Gamecock Radio Network
In Columbia: 107.5 The Game
Play-By-Play: Derek Scott
Analyst: Casey Manning
Sirius: – | XM: 138 | Internet: 190
Watch: WatchESPN/ESPN App
Live Stats: GamecocksOnline.com
Tickets: Arena box office
Vandy Series: Vandy leads, 31-29
In SEC Tournament: 0-0
Arkansas Series: Arkansas leads 20-15
In SEC Tournament: Arkansas leads 3-2
> South Carolina begins postseason action on Thursday as the sixth seed in the 2020 SEC Tournament. Carolina posted a 10-8 record in league contests this season, marking the fourth time in the last five campaigns the Gamecocks have had double-digit SEC wins.
> Carolina will face either 11-seeded Arkansas or 14th-seeded Vanderbilt on Thursday night at approximately 9:30 PM ET in the SEC Tournament Second Round. The Gamecocks split a pair of games vs. Vandy during the regular season, with each squad winning on its homecourt, while Carolina picked up a road win at Arkansas in the only matchup between the two schools during the 2020 league campaign.
> Should Carolina win on Thursday, the Gamecocks would advance to face No. 3 seed LSU, again at approximately 9:30 PM ET. Carolina suffered an 86-80 loss to the Tigers late last month in Columbia.
> Carolina is 21-28 (.428) all-time in SEC Tournament games entering the 2020 event. Carolina’s last Tournament win came in 2018, posting an 85-84 win over Ole Miss in the opening round.
> The Gamecocks last faced Arkansas in the SEC Tournament in 2018, with the Razorbacks collecting a 69-64 win in the second round in St. Louis.
> South Carolina is 0-2 in neutral-site matchups this season, falling to Wichita State and Northern Iowa at the Cancun Challenge in late November.
> Carolina concluded the SEC campaign with an 83-74 road loss at Vanderbilt last Saturday. The Gamecocks struggled from beyond the arc, hitting just 1-of-13 attempts in the game.
> The Gamecocks captured their 10th win of the SEC campaign with an 83-71 win over Mississippi State on March 3 at Colonial Life Arena. Maik Kotsar was the star on Senior Night, leading Carolina with 20 points, while also dishing four assists with a steal in 37 minutes of action.
> Carolina’s six road wins during the regular season were the most by a Gamecock squad since the 2016-17 Final Four team also had six road wins.
> Since the beginning of the 2016 SEC campaign, Carolina is 33-12 (.733) in conference home contests. The Gamecocks were 7-2 in SEC home games in 2020.
> In its 18 wins, the Carolina defense is holding opponents to just 36.3 percent from the field and 25.7 percent from 3-point range.
> Martin is 33-45 (.435) 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.
> The Gamecocks are 6-6 on the road this season, and are 28-39 (41.7%) in road contests dating back to the 2014-15 campaign.
COUISNARD AND KOTSAR EARN POSTSEASON HONORS FROM SEC COACHES
> South Carolina senior forward Maik Kotsar earned the first postseason honor of his career when he was named to the All-SEC Second Team by the league’s coaches on Tuesday. Kotsar has had a career year in 2019-20. He enters SEC Tournament action with career highs of 11.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
> Kotsar has 20 double-figure scoring games this season and three double-doubles.
> In SEC play, Kotsar averaged 12.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, with team highs of 1.2 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
> Couisnard has been named to the SEC All-Freshman Team by the conference coaches. His selection marks the second straight year Carolina has had a freshman selected to the squad (AJ Lawson in 2019), and the fourth time under the direction of head coach Frank Martin that a Gamecock has earned All-Freshman Team honors (Michael Carrera, 2011; Sindarius Thornwell, 2014; AJ Lawson, 2019).
> Couisnard stepped into the starting lineup as Carolina’s point guard early in the SEC season. He leads the team with 3.2 assists per game (overall games), and is tied for ninth in the league with an assist to turnover ratio of 1.4.
> Couisnard led Carolina during SEC play with 14.8 points per game, and 3.6 assists per game, while also posting 13 double-figure scoring games during conference play.
> Couisnard had 24 games with 2+ assists during his rookie season and led or shared the team lead in assists 14 times.
AN INSIDE LOOK AT CAROLINA’S SCHEDULE
> South Carolina is 67 in the NET (March 10) entering SEC Tournament action.
> The Gamecocks are 3-9 in Q1 games and 6-1 in Q2 contests.
> Two of Carolina’s Q1 wins came on the road, at Virginia and at Arkansas.
> The Gamecocks have won six road games, with three of those coming in conference contests (at Texas A&M, at Arkansas, at Georgia). Carolina’s other road wins came at UMass, at Clemson and at Virginia.
THROUGH 31 GAMES …
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson paces the Gamecocks with 13.4 points per game. Lawson also has a team high 57 3-pointers on the year and is dishing out 1.9 assists per game.
> Kotsar is 16 rebounds away from cracking the top 10 all time in the category. He sits at 668 for his career, and Gamecock great Sindarius Thornwell is in the 10th position with 684 career rebounds.
> The Gamecocks are holding opponents to just 39.3 percent from the floor, which leads the SEC and ranks 18th nationally.
> Carolina has dished at least 13 assists in 23 games, including an SEC season high 22 in the Jan. 18 road win at Texas A&M, and again vs. Georgia on Feb. 26.
> R-freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard is averaging a team high 3.2 assists per game. He has 24 games this season with two or more assists and dished a career high 10 in the home win over Mississippi State (March 3). Couisnard is tied for ninth in the SEC with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4.
> Carolina has held its opponent to less than 40 percent from the field on 13 occassions, including holding Wyoming to 23.1 percent and only nine made field goals.
> The Gamecocks are 16-4 in games in which they lead at the half.
> Lawson (57), Bolden (47) and Couisnard (36) combine to account for 140 of Carolina’s 174 3-pointers on the year, 80.4 percent.
THE DEFENSE SHINES
> Frank Martin teams are known for their tenacious defense and the 2019-20 team is on the mark. Below are some defensive notes:
• The Gamecocks lead the league and rank 18th nationally, holding opponents to just 39.3% from the field.
• From 3-point range, opponents have hit just 197-of-665 attempts (29.6%/4th in the SEC/19th nationally)
• Carolina is forcing 15.55 turnovers per contest, second in the SEC and 41st in the nation.
• Carolina has held 13 opponents to under 40% from the field and five of those under 30%.
• 16 Gamecock opponents were held to under 30% from the field from 3-point range.
• 11 opponents have been held to under 20 made field goals.
• 16 opponents have committed 15+ turnovers.
• Carolina is sixth in the SEC (overall games) with 4.3 blocks per game, second with 7.7 steals and second with a +2.4 turnover margin.
• Individually, Kotsar is tied for eighth with 1.5 steals per game and he is just outside of the top 10 with 1.09 blocks per outing.
• The Gamecocks rank in the national top 60 in blocks (51), steals (51), turnovers forced (41) per game.
KOTSAR CONTINUES STRONG SENIOR CAMPAIGN
> Senior forward Maik Kotsar is having a career year in his senior season.
> Kotsar has led or shared the team lead in scoring 10 times this season, including in six of Carolina’s SEC games. He has also scored in double figures a career high 20 times.
> Kotsar recently had a career-best streak of nine straight games scoring in double figures (scored only eight at Alabama on Feb. 29). During the stretch, Kotsar averaged 15.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.9 steals per game.
> In SEC games, Kotsar averaged 12.3 points, 6.6 rebounds (9th in the SEC), 1.5 steals (t-7th) and 1.2 blocks per game (t-9th).
> Kotsar continues to be the SEC’s active leader with 668 career rebounds, and he is third among active players, and the leading forward with 133 career steals.
> Kotsar is eight steals away from matching Gamecock great Carlos Powell in career steals for 10th all time in the Garnet and Black (141).
> Kotsar is one of only two in the SEC (conference games only) to be ranked in the top 10 in both rebounds (6.6 per game/9th in the SEC) and steals (team high 1.5 per outing/t-7th).
> Kotsar is the only player in the country 6-10 or taller with 40 or more steals on the year (NCAA statistics as of March 8).
• He is the only player in the SEC with 40+ steals and 30+ blocks (entering SEC Tournament play).
MINAYA STRONG IN LEAGUE PLAY
> Prior to suffering a hand/wrist injury in the Feb. 1 Missouri contest, r-sophomore forward Justin Minaya was playing strong on both ends of the court for the Gamecocks in SEC action. In his eight league games, prior to injury, Minaya averaged 8.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals per outing. He had four double-figure outings in SEC action, including a career high 18 points in the Jan. 18 road win at Texas A&M.
> Minaya returned to the court for Carolina’s regular-season finale at Vanderbilt, scoring eight points with four rebounds in just over 16 minutes of action. Minaya will have to wear a splint on his thumb for the remainder of the season during practice and games.
> 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). Higlighting 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.
KELLEY NAMED 2020 SEC LEGEND
> Gamecock great Tre’ Kelley has been named South Carolina’s 2020 SEC Legend for men’s basketball. Kelley was a 2007 All-SEC First Team member during his senior campaign, and was honored with the Frances Pomeroy Smith Award that same season.
> Kelley scored 1,488 points during his Gamecock career, and is third all-time at Carolina with 510 assists. He also holds the single season record with 38 starts during the 2006 campaign, when he led the Gamecocks to their second straight NIT Championship. Kelley led Carolina in assists each of his final three seasons in the Garnet and Black, dishing out a career high 174 during his junior season. Kelley earned All-SEC First-Team accolades in 2007 from both the coaches and media, and continues to thrive in his career playing professionally both abroad and in the United States.
> Kelley joins Legends from all 14 SEC institutions, and he will be honored at halftime of Carolina’s opening contest at the upcoming SEC Tournament in Nashville.
NELSON NAMED TO 2020 SEC COMMUNITY SERVICE TEAM
> South Carolina sophomore forward Nathan Nelson was named to the 2020 SEC Men’s Basketball Community Service Team.
> Nelson has participated in numerous community outreach initiatives during his time in the Garnet and Black. He has joined his teammates for the 8K Community Outreach Campaign during the summer months, participating in events at Sowing Seeds, the Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity and also visiting the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia. At Sowing Seeds, Nelson helped with a gardening project, and he and his teammates hosted a luau at the Ronald McDonald House at the Prisma Children’s Hospital during the Campaign. He has also spent time at the Salvation Army, at Harvest Hope Food Bank, with the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, at the YMCA and at a holiday event at Shaw Air Force Base for military members and their families.
> On the court this season, Nelson has seen action in 12 contests, and played a career high nine minutes in Carolina’s Feb. 15 home win over Tennessee. He scored the first points of his college career earlier this season in the victory over Wyoming.
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 264-173 record in his 13th season as a head coach, and a 147-119 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.
> 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.
> Carolina claimed a Palmetto Series point with a big road win over instrastate rival and ACC opponent Clemson Dec. 15 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.
> Prior to the break for the holidays, Carolina upset No. 9 Virginia in Charlottesville with a 70-59 victory on Dec. 22. The win improved the Gamecocks to 3-0 on the road this season, and it snapped a 22-game home non-conference win streak for the Cavaliers.
> R-junior guard Jair Bolden led four Gamecocks in double figures vs. UVA with a season high 22 points on eight made field goals, including four makes from 3-point range. AJ Lawson (14), Justin Minaya (12) and Keyshawn Bryant (10) also posted double figures in the win.
> Bolden was named the SEC’s co-Player of the Week following his standout performance vs. Virginia. It marked Bolden’s first weekly award as a Gamecock.
> The victory on the road vs. the Cavaliers was Carolina’s first on the road over a top 10 opponent since an 81-78 victory at No. 8/8 Texas A&M on Feb. 6, 2016.
> Carolina suffered a 63-56 loss to Stetson in the non-conference finale on Dec. 30. Only Maik Kotsar (11 points) registered double figures, and the Gamecocks connected on just 20-of-54 (37.0%) attempts from the floor and only 12-of-24 (50.0%) attempts at the free throw line.
> South Carolina collected its first win of the 2020 SEC campaign on Jan. 15, as r-freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard sank a long 3-point buzzer-beater to give the Gamecocks an 81-78 upset win over No. 10/12 Kentucky at Colonial Life Arena. The win was Carolina’s second this season over a top-10 opponent.
> Rookie forward Jalyn McCreary posted the first double-figure scoring game of his career with 11 in the win vs. Vanderbilt.
> South Carolina picked up its third quadrant one win of the season with a 79-77 road victory at Arkansas on Jan. 29 night. The Gamecocks never trailed in the contest, and led by as many as 11 in the opening half. Arkansas pulled to within a point with 28 seconds remaining on a Mason Jones free throw, before Jermaine Couisnard hit one of his two attempts from the line to push the Carolina lead back to two with 26 seconds to play.
> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson was big on both ends of the court vs. the Razorbacks, scoring a team high 19 points, while also picking up a steal. He also defended Arkansas’ final 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
> Guard Trae Hannibal played 15 minutes during the second half of the win at Arkansas, and the rookie scored a season high 11 points to help lift the Gamecocks in the win. He was 4-of-7 from the floor, and made 3-of-6 attempts at the foul line.
> South Carolina extended it’s winning streak to three straight when it posted a convincing 76-54 home victory over Missouri Feb. 1. Three were in double figures for Carolina, led by Kotsar’s 21 points. It marked Kotsar’s first 20-point outing of the year and his second career.
> South Carolina saw its three-game win streak come to an end on when it suffered an 84-70 loss on the road at Ole Miss on Feb. 5. Breein Tyree led the Rebels with 38 points on 12 made baskets in the win.
> R-freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard continued his hot streak on the offensive end, scoring a season high 28 vs. Ole Miss. It was his second 20-point game of the year. He connected on eight field goals, one shy of matching his season high, and hit a season best nine free throws. He made six of his eight field goals in the second half. Couisnard paces the Gamecocks in SEC action with 16.1 points per game.
> Kotsar had a strong outing against the Rebels as well, especially in the first half when he scored 12 of his 19 points. Kotsar also led the Gamecocks in rebounds (8), blocks (3) and steals (3) on Wednesday.
> For his efforts Feb. 5 vs. Ole Miss, when he scored a season high 28 points, and his 19-point performance in last the Feb. 8 home win over A&M, Jermaine Couisnard was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for the second time this season.
> South Carolina captured its sixth road win of the season when it defeated Georgia 75-59 in Athens on Feb. 12. The Gamecocks held the Bulldogs to just one field goal in the first 14 minutes of the game to build a double-digit lead they would never give up. Sophomore guard AJ Lawson led four Gamecocks in double figures with a game high 20 points.
> A crucial steal, followed by four straight makes at the free throw line in the final 23 seconds by senior forward Maik Kotsar would be the difference in Carolina’s 63-61 home win over Tennessee on Feb. 15. Kotsar led the Gamecocks with 13 points and eight rebounds, and the senior secured Carolina’s eighth SEC win of the season.
> The numbers show just how close of a contest it was vs. the Vols – both teams with 20 baskets, both with four 3-pointers, and the difference was Carolina’s 19 makes at the charity stripe compared to 17 by the Vols. Kotsar was 7-of-8 at the line for Carolina and R-freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard was 7-of-11, as the duo accounted for 14 of Carolina’s makes at the line.
> South Carolina saw its three-game win streak halted when it suffered a 79-76 loss at Mississippi State (Feb. 19). Senior forward Maik Kotsar scored a season high 24 points – just one shy of matching his career high – on a career high 11 made field goals vs. the Bulldogs. Jermaine Couisnard (17) and AJ Lawson (12) were also in double figures in the loss.
> Five Gamecocks scored in double figures for just the second time in SEC play in the matchup vs. LSU, however, the Tigers withheld a late Gamecock rally to close the 86-80 win on Feb. 22 in Coumbia. Carolina was held to just 37.3 percent (28-75) from the floor, and LSU hit 25-of-31 (80.6%) attempts at the free throw line in the win.
> R-junior guard Jair Bolden hit a trio of 3-pointers off the bench vs. LSU, scoring 15 points in 19 minutes of action. It marked Bolden’s 14th double-figure scoring outing of the season, and his 13th game this season with multiple makes from 3-point range.
> Carolina scored a season high 94 points in the overtime victory vs. Georgia at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 26. The contest snapped a two-game losing streak for the Gamecocks, and secured the season sweep over the Bulldogs.
> Six Gamecocks scored in double figures, including all five in the starting lineup vs. UGA. Sophomore forward Alanzo Frink was nearly unstoppable underneath the basket, connecting on 8-of-10 attempts, along with a 6-of-9 mark at the free throw line for a career high 22 in the win. Senior forward Maik Kotsar (19 points/10 rebounds) and sophomore forward Keyshawn Bryant (16 points/10 rebounds) both collected a double-double in the contest.
> The Gamecocks recently suffered a 90-86 loss at Alabama on Feb. 29. Sophomore forward Keyshawn Bryant posted his third consecutive double-double with career highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds. AJ Lawson (17), Jermaine Couisnard (12) and Alanzo Frink (10) were also in double figures.
> Carolina made eight more field goals than the Crimson Tide in the contest, but Alabama connected on 33-of-47 attempts at the free throw line, including 4-of-6 at the line in the final minute of action.
> Kotsar scored the 1,000th point of his career at Alabama.
51 – Dating back to the 2016 SEC campaign, Carolina has 51 conference victories. Only Kentucky (69) and Florida (54) have more during that stretch, and Tennessee also has 51. The Gamecocks have reached double-figure conference wins in four of those seasons, including 10 in 2020.
21-28 – South Carolina is 21-28 (.428) all-time in the SEC Tournament.
30/40 – Senior forward Maik Kotsar is the only player in the SEC (entering Tournament play) that has at least 30 blocks and 40 steals this season. Kotsar leads the Gamecocks in both categories with 34 blocks and 46 steals on the year.
32.7 – South Carolina is averaging 32.7 points in the paint per game this season.
70+ – The Gamecocks are 15-7 when scoring 70 or more points this season.
83.4 – Over the course of the last five games, Carolina is averaging 83.4 points per outing, +10 on its season average.
40+ – Six Gamecocks have 40+ assists on the year, led by Couisnard’s 95. Kotsar (72), Lawson (58), Minaya (45), Moss (44) and Bolden (41) also have over 40.
> South Carolina debuted its throwback jerseys for the first time this season for the Dec. 8 matchup vs. Houston. Fans can visit the official online store at GamecocksOnline.com to purchase the full line of throwback gear.
> The uniforms are inspired by the look of the uniforms from the 1970’s era of Gamecock basketball.
> The Gamecocks got their first win in their throwback uniforms in the upset victory over No. 10/12 Kentucky on January 15.