South Carolina con­tin­ues sur­pris­ing SEC start

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Sports - BY JEF­FREY COLLINS

No one else might have be­lieved in South Carolina as they en­tered South­east­ern Con­fer­ence play as the only team with a los­ing record, but Game­cocks coach Frank Martin made sure his team didn’t lose faith.

Keyshawn Bryant scored 15 points, and Chris Silva added 14 as South Carolina (8-7, 3-0) con­tin­ued its sur­pris­ing league start with an 85-75 win over Mis­souri on Sun­day. It’s only the third time in 28 sea­sons the Game­cocks have won their first three SEC games.

“Young guys, man,” Frank Martin said when asked what has hap­pened to a South Carolina team that went 5-7 in non­con­fer­ence with losses to Stony Brook and Wof­ford. “Be­ing a good team is not like flip­ping a light switch.”

On Sun­day, it was a com­bi­na­tion of the fresh­man Bryant’s 7-of-9 shoot­ing and Silva’s tak­ing ad­van­tage of Mis­souri’s big man, Jeremiah Til­mon, foul­ing out with 12:57 left try­ing to post up on Silva.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what sit­u­a­tion we are in — Coach al­ways be­lieves in us,” Silva said.

The Game­cocks led the en­tire sec­ond half, but the Tigers (9-5, 0-2) kept hang­ing around. Three times Mis­souri cut the lead to three but couldn’t get closer.

The last time came on Javon Pick­ett’s 3-pointer with 3:17 left. But Felipe Hasse and A.J. Law­son hit back-to-back 3-point­ers to put South Carolina ahead 79-70 with 2:03 to go.

Hasse added 14 points and six re­bounds for the Game­cocks.

The fresh­man Pick­ett led all scor­ers with a ca­reer-high 21 points. Mark Smith and Jor­dan Geist each added 14 for the Tigers.

The game was orig­i­nally sched­uled for Satur­day af­ter­noon, but Co­lum­bia, Mis­souri re­ceived about a foot of snow Fri­day into Satur­day, and the Tigers couldn’t make it out of town un­til Satur­day.

TIL­MON’S TROU­BLES

It’s been a rough three games for Till­mon. The sopho­more has fouled out of three games in a row, and his 13 min­utes Sun­day was his long­est out­ing of the three.

Till­mon was dis­qual­i­fied in 12

min­utes against More­head State and 9 ver­sus Ten­nessee.

Mis­souri coach Cuonzo Martin said Till­mon’s trou­bles Sun­day were more on him than on a vet­eran All-SEC pre­sea­son first team player like Silva tak­ing ad­van­tage of him.

“It’s him look­ing in the mir­ror and fig­ur­ing out his next move,” Martin said of Till­mon.

RARE START

The other two times South Carolina has started 3-0 in the SEC have been spe­cial sea­sons.

In 1997, they started 11-0 and won their only SEC reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle.

In 2017, South Carolina opened 5-0 in the SEC and went to their only Fi­nal Four.

A DAY LATER

Both Cuonzo Martin and Frank Martin said de­lay­ing the game by a day wasn’t a fac­tor in the out­come. Mis­souri couldn’t get out Fri­day be­cause the snow came faster and harder than fore­cast.

“It’s a part of it,” Cuonzo Martin said. “You make ad­just­ments.”

Frank Martin said he learned win­ter weather can mess up plans quickly dur­ing his years coach­ing at Kansas State, and the safety of a trav­el­ing team needs to al­ways be first over any in­con­ve­nience of post­pon­ing a game.

“I lived out there, so I un­der­stand travel gets com­pli­cated some­times,” he said.

BIG PIC­TURE

Mis­souri: The Tigers turned the ball over 20 times, their sec­ond-worst per­for­mance this sea­son. South Carolina had 16 turnovers, but the Game­cocks outscored Mis­souri 33-17 off the mis­cues. South Carolina: The key to the Game­cocks’ sur­prise SEC start comes on of­fense. Teams typ­i­cally score less once league play starts, but South Carolina is av­er­ag­ing 81 points in its three SEC games, eight more points than non­con­fer­ence play.

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