Freshman Anthony Gill had a solid debut as he led the Gamecocks with 14 points and six rebounds. Senior Malik Cooke added 11 points and four rebounds, and sophomore RJ Slawson netted 10 points and pulled down a game-high eight boards in the win. On the defensive end, sophomore Damontre Harris was a force with a game-high five blocks.
The Gamecocks shot 42.6 percent (23-of-54) from the floor but did most of their damage from 3-point range, knocking down 10-of-19 attempts. The Panthers struggled against Carolina's defensive pressure, making just 27.9 percent (17-of-61) of their attempts, but they did hold a 39-37 advantage on the boards.
Both teams generated most of their offense from beyond the arc in the first half to overcome early shooting struggles. The Gamecocks were 6-of-13 from deep in the first 20 minutes, while the Panthers sank 6-of-14 attempts from 3-point range.
Four of Kentucky Wesleyan's first five baskets were from deep. A 3-pointer by Anthony Young gave the Panthers a 19-11 lead at the 8:53 mark. The Gamecocks stormed back with back-to-back threes by Damien Leonard and Slawson to trim the Panthers' lead to 19-17.
Gill, who paced South Carolina with 10 points in the first half, drained a three from the corner to knot the game at 21-21 with 3:55 remaining, but Marseilles Stewart answered at the other end to give Kentucky Wesleyan a 24-21 advantage.
After the Panthers pushed their lead to 32-26 with 1:04 left, South Carolina closed out the half in strong fashion with a 7-0 run. Cooke capped the run by draining 3-pointer at the top of the key at the buzzer to give the Gamecocks a 33-32 lead heading into the locker room.
South Carolina kept its momentum going to begin the second half, opening with its decisive 22-6 run during the first eight minutes. Brian Richardson gave the Gamecocks their largest lead of the half by knocking down a jumper in the paint to push their lead to 55-38 with 12:00 left.
The Gamecocks held Kentucky Wesleyan at a safe distance the rest of the way, as the Panthers were unable to pull closer than 10 points.
Young paced the Panthers with 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Dominique Dawson chipped in 10 points in the loss.
South Carolina begins the regular season on Friday, Nov. 11 at home against Western Carolina. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena. The contest will be televised on SportSouth.
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