Gamecocks Rebound With Win Against Cougars
The game marked the return of former Gamecock great Bobby Cremins. Cremins briefly accepted the coaching job at South Carolina in 1993 before changing his mind and returning to Georgia Tech. There was some question about how Cremins would be greeted in his return to Columbia, but when he walked onto the court before the game, he was greeted with a smattering of applause. He received a standing ovation when his name was announced with the starting lineups. "I congratulate our fans on doing the right thing," Coach Dave Odom said. "He is one of the most favorite athletes of all time at this university."
Odom was concerned about how the team would respond after losing to Clemson on Saturday. Players struggled with their focus and intensity during practice, but that changed during team warm-ups. "When they came back in, [Assistant Coach] Barry Sanderson leaned over to me and said, "They're going to play good early."
Dwayne Day led an early charge for the Gamecocks. In a sign of things to come, he made the first shot for Carolina, a three-pointer from the corner. Given the way Carolina has struggled from behind the arc, Day's trey was a welcome shot in the arm. After a Tre Kelley layup, Day forced a jump ball and drew a defensive foul. About that time, College of Charleston got hot from behind the arc. Dontaye Draper hit a pair of threes, and David Lawrence added another. The spurt gave the Cougars an 11-9 lead after four minutes of play.
When play resumed, senior Brandon Wallace took charge for the Gamecocks. He notched back to back blocks against College of Charleston's Jermaine Johnson and altered another to bring Carolina's defense to life. On the offensive end, Kelley found Wallace for a long jumper on the wing. The basket tied the game at 13-13. With Kelley on the bench, Wallace drove into the lane and found Day in the corner for a three pointer, then added one himself. Another trey by Bryce Sheldon put the Gamecocks up 22-14. The shot capped a 9-1 run in which College of Charleston went nearly 8 minutes without a field goal.
Lawrence finally ended the drought for the Cougars with a long range shot, but it did not slow down the Carolina offense. With the shot clock at 1, Raley-Ross threw up a desperation attempt from near mid-court that banked in. Evalduas Baniulis, seeing his first significant action in several games, got a steal and was fouled, making one of two free throws. Then Kelley brought the house down by finding Day for a dunk with a pinpoint pass on the fast break. With 4:00 minutes left in the half and the Gamecocks cruising, 31-19, Cremins was forced to call a timeout to regroup.
Cremins could not come up with a way to slow down Wallace, who continued to dominate on both ends of the court. In the last four minutes of the half alone, he blocked a pair of shots, and redirected another. With four seconds left in the half, he drew a foul behind the arc and calmly sank all three free throws to stretch the Gamecock lead to 36-23. Wallace finished the half with 10 points, 7 blocks and 6 rebounds on the way to a career night.
Wallace started the second half much the same way, driving to the rim and drawing a foul on the basket. He got all three points on the next possession when he drained a shot from the top of the key. From that point on, the Gamecocks and Cougars matched baskets, with Carolina maintaining a comfortable 15 point lead. College of Charleston tried to make things interesting with just under 4 minutes to play, when Draper hit a three-pointer to draw the Cougars within 11 points. Odom put Kelley, who had been on the bench during the run after picking up his fourth foul, back in the game to calm things down. Kelley did his job, milking the clock and then pulling in a crucial offensive rebound to dash the Cougars' hopes.
Wallace finished with a career-high 22 points and 8 blocks. He also contributed nine rebounds and four assists. "He had a real scholarly-like approach to the game tonight," said Odom. "He was involved in everything that was going on in the backcourt, frontcourt, open court. I'm real proud and real pleased for him."
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