South Carolina cruises past Norfolk State 81-64
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Senior guard Hassani Gravett and freshman guard A.J. Lawson scored 18 points apiece and South Carolina whipped Norfolk State 81-64 Tuesday night in its final tuneup before the conclusion of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tipoff.
Justin Minaya scored 10 points and Felipe Haase had nine for the Gamecocks (2-1) while the Spartans (2-2) got 15 points from Nic Thomas. South Carolina swished 11 3-pointers just two games after going 0-for-18 from long range, with Gravett connecting on five and Lawson hitting three.
“Good to come out and play well,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “Good to see us play through our principles through the first 32, 33 minutes of the game.”
Norfolk wilted under the barrage after a first half where it could have stayed closer because of South Carolina foul trouble. Starting bigs Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar were each on the bench but the Spartans were 14-of-22 from the free-throw line, allowing South Carolina to take a 14-point lead into halftime.
“We make those, theoretically, it’s a whole different game,” Spartans coach Robert Jones said. “We were perfect in the second half.”
The lead swelled to as many as 28 in the second half as the Gamecocks cruised to the finish. Norfolk State used a multiple zone look, trying to confuse South Carolina and shut down the reliance on Silva and Kotsar.
It mostly worked, the two combining for 16 points. But when the Gamecocks’ guards were firing 3-pointers over the zones, the Spartans had to answer.
They hit 10-of-22 3-pointers but most were at the end with the result already decided. “They weren’t making those shots earlier in the year,” Jones said.
Martin was glad to see his young team handle another night where Silva and Kotsar weren’t large factors.
“When I had the open shot, I shot it,” said Gravett, who was one off his career-high. “Everything felt good and it just went in for me.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks needed to answer after a shocking loss to Stony Brook. They have young talent but they won’t go anywhere if Silva and Kotsar don’t play to their best every night.
Norfolk State: The Spartans are trying to build up enough experience before they hit the MEAC schedule. As Jones said, nothing against the competition they’ll face from here on, but it won’t be as physical as South Carolina and Michigan were.
Besides scoring 18, Lawson had eight assists and six rebounds. The top player in Canada who re-classified to this year so he could play right away for Martin, Lawson is already a mainstay in the starting lineup.
South Carolina again had a thin bench, although freshman guard T.J. Moss played his first minutes after missing the first two games with a foot problem. Freshman Alanzo Frink is still recovering from a knee injury, although he will travel with the team on its next road trip, while Nathan Nelson is sick and Jermaine Couisnard is still trying to get his academic situation resolved.
Each team heads to the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, to conclude their stays in the Hall of Fame Tipoff.
South Carolina: plays Providence on Saturday, an unranked team but the first major name on the schedule. The Friars have made the last five NCAA tournaments.
Norfolk State: faces Siena Saturday trying to get back over .500 for the season. They could play Stony Brook, which beat South Carolina last week, on Sunday.