Gamecocks Face Liberty In Season Opener Saturday
KANSAS CITY – South Carolina (0-0) opens the 2020-21 season on Saturday when it faces Liberty (1-1) at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. Tip time versus the Flames is set for 4 p.m. ET, with the matchup set to be broadcast on ESPNEWS with Chuckie Kempf (play-by-play) and Mark Adams (analyst) on the call, while Derek Scott (play-by-play) and Casey Manning (analyst) will handle the call for the Gamecock Radio Network.
Arena: T-Mobile Center (18,972)
Play-By-Play: Chuckie Kempf
Analyst: Mark Adams
Radio: Gamecock Radio Network
In Columbia: 98.5 FM
Play-By-Play: Derek Scott
Analyst: Casey Manning
Sirius: – | XM: – | Internet: 983
Watch: WatchESPN/ESPN App
Live Stats: GamecocksOnline.com
Series: First Meeting
Neutral Site Series: 0-0
Series Trend: First Meeting
> South Carolina opens its 113th season of varsity basketball on Saturday vs. Liberty in Kansas City at the Hall of Fame Classic.
> The Gamecocks are 83-29 all-time in season openers and the Gamecocks have not lost a season lidlifter since suffering a 73-67 loss to Tennessee Tech to open the 2000-01 campaign. The Gamecocks posted a 77-55 win over North Alabama in last season’s opener. Frank Martin is 13-0 in season lidlifters during his career as a head coach (5-0 at Kansas State, 8-0 at Carolina).
> Head coach Frank Martin is in his ninth season leading the Gamecocks in 2020-21. He is joined by assistant coaches Will Bailey, Chuck Martin and Bruce Shingler, while Andy Assaley is the director of operations for the squad.
> A pair of Gamecocks collected preseason honors from both the media and SEC coaches in the last two weeks. Junior guard AJ Lawson earned preseason All-SEC Second-Team accolades from the media, while Lawson (First Team) and Couisnard (Second Team) were honored by the SEC coaches on the preseason teams.
> South Carolina returns a core group from last season’s squad that finished the shortened campaign with an 18-13 overall record. The Gamecocks return three of their top five scorers, including Lawson (13.4 ppg), Couisnard (12.1 ppg) and junior forward Keyshawn Bryant (9.1 ppg). Junior forward Justin Minaya, who missed nine games last season due to injury, added 7.8 points per game in 2019-20.
SCOUTING THE FLAMES
> Liberty is led by head coach Ritchie McKay in his eighth season leading the Flames.
> Liberty is 1-1 entering weekend action after splitting a pair of contests at the Space Coast Challenge earlier this week.
> The Flames suffered a 77-64 loss to Purdue, but rebounded with a record-setting performance in an 84-73 win over Mississippi State.
> Liberty hit a program record 19 3-pointers vs. the Bulldogs, including seven 3s from Darius McGhee.
> McGhee paces the squad through the first two matchups with 22.0 points per game. He is 15-of-31 from the floor this season, with 11 of those makes from 3.
> Entering the 2020-21 campaign, Liberty has won back-to-back conference regular season and tournament titles.
GAMECOCK NOTES TO KNOW
> The Gamecocks’ neutral-site matchup vs. Liberty to begin the season marks Carolina’s first neutral game to open a season since facing Duke at the Maui Invitational on Nov. 20, 2001, to open the 2001-02 campaign.
> Junior guard AJ Lawson is Carolina’s top returning scorer after pacing the team with 13.4 points per game last season. He averaged the same during his rookie campaign, and is just 196 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
> Five who started the majority of SEC games last season return to the court for Carolina. Lawson, sophomore guard Jermaine Couisnard, who paced the team in league play at 12.1 points per game, junior forward Keyshawn Bryant, junior forward Justin Minaya (missed nine SEC games due to injury last season) and junior forward Alanzo Frink.
> From last season, the biggest absence from the lineup will be graduated four-year starter Maik Kotsar. Kotsar had a career year, averaging 11.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while also leading the Gamecocks in blocks (1.1 per game) and steals at 1.5 per outing in 2019-20. Kotsar, who was a starter during his rookie season on Carolina’s 2017 Final Four squad, also played a team high 30.4 minutes per game a year ago.
> Other non-conference matchups away from home for the Gamecocks include a road game at preseason American Athletic Conference favorite Houston (Dec. 5), and a road matchup at George Washington (Dec. 14).
> Home non-conference matchups for Carolina include: Wofford (Dec. 10), Clemson (Dec. 19), SC State (Dec. 23) and Florida A&M (Jan. 2).
BY THE NUMBERS
73.4% – South Carolina returns 73.4 percent of its scoring from last season, including leading scorer, junior guard AJ Lawson who averaged 13.4 points per game.
39.3% – The Gamecocks held opponents to just 39.3 percent from the field last season, which led the SEC and ranked 18th nationally.
3.2 – Sophomore guard Jermaine Couisnard paced the Gamecocks last season with 3.2 assists per game. Couisnard had 18 games with three or more assists last season, including a career best 10 assists in the home win over Mississippi State.
27 – Despite missing the first eight games of last season due to injury, junior forward Keyshawn Bryant led the Gamecocks with 27 dunks on the year.
6.0 – Carolina returns 76.3% of its rebounding from last season, led by Minaya’s 6.0 per game.
> South Carolina concludes action at the Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday when it faces Tulsa or TCU. Possible tip times for that matchup at 1/3:30 p.m. ET, and the contest will be broadcast on ESPN2.