GAME NOTES: The South Carolina Gamecocks entertain the Rider Broncs on Monday night as part of the Hoops for Hope Classic.
Rider began its season with a three-game homestand and it came out of it with a 2-1 record. The Broncs notched an impressive 79-54 win over Robert Morris in the opener, then dropped a nationally-televised bout to Stony Brook (54-46) before bouncing back with a 65-62 win over intrastate rival Monmouth.
The Frank Martin-era at South Carolina has gotten off to a fast start. First, the Gamecocks won their opener against Milwaukee, 82-75, then they went on to defeat Morgan State, 87-71. They will close out a four-game homestand later this week with a matchup against Elon before traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the next round of this event.
These two teams have played each other once before, with Rider topping USC back during the 1982-83 season.
There's been no offensive shortage for South Carolina, which has put up 84.5 ppg on 48.3 percent field goal shooting. It's a great sign for a squad that scored only 61 ppg a year ago, and it shows that maybe Martin's offensive scheme has started to click earlier than expected. Against Morgan State, the Gamecocks were on fire from the field (30-of-57) and from the foul line (21- of-26), which helped mask an unsightly 20 turnovers. LaShay Page paced USC with 20 points and he also added five rebounds and a pair of steals. The Southern Miss transfer has been a great find for South Carolina, as he's led the team in scoring in both matchups (19.5 ppg). Joining Page in the backcourt is Eric Smith, who netted 17 points, and Brenton Williams, who tallied 14. R.J. Slawson and Brian Richardson each put up 10 points, and while Lakeem Jackson (eight points) just missed the double-digit scoring party, he helped out in other areas with eight boards and four assists.
Rider led by as many as 13 points midway through the second half of its last game, but Monmouth managed to climb all the way back to tie the game, 62-62, with just over a minute to play. Rider then went 3-of-4 at the free throw line down the stretch to secure the win. Daniel Stewart recorded a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and he shot 6-of-7 from both the field and the foul line. Jonathon Thompson added 10 points and also blocked a pair of shots. Nurideen Lindsey leads the Broncs in scoring with 16.7 ppg, but he managed just seven points and six turnovers against Monmouth. Despite its winning record, Rider has not played very sound basketball, as it is draining less than 41 percent of its field goal attempts, and it averages nearly 20 turnovers per game. The Broncs were guilty of a whopping 28 giveaways against the Hawks.
Even with a proven coach at the helm, no one expects South Carolina to be a serious threat in the SEC just yet. Still, it seems that he has changed the culture in the locker room, and the Gamecocks are more than capable of winning games they're supposed to, like this one at home against an inconsistent Rider club.
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