South Carolina got a second straight crucial home win by beating Vanderbilt 70-61 on Tuesday night. It is the first time they’ve won back-to-back SEC games since 2020. This contest mirrored the victory on Saturday against Georgia. A big run in the middle of the second half erased a deficit and Frank Martin’s team cruised to their third conference win of the season. Once again it was the Gamecock veterans that propelled this team in the second half.
Gamecock Veterans Are Key to Success
This roster was almost completely overhauled after last season. There are nine players that are in their first season in garnet and black, with three freshmen and six transfers. With that much roster movement, it was always going to be crucial that the Gamecocks veterans from a season ago play well. Unfortunately, Keyshawn Bryant, Jermaine Couisnard, and Wildens Leveque have all had up and down seasons so far. When they have played well, South Carolina has looked like a good team. When they have struggled the results have not been great.
Rounding Into Form
Cousinard has had his issues both on and off the court this season. He has battled some lingering injuries that diminished his practice time early in the year. Also, coach Martin has mentioned multiple times that he has faced real life adversity off the court. The junior guard is fighting through all of that to try and help lead this team the best he can. His last two games have been two of his best performances of the season, and the Gamecocks need that level of play from their point guard. His averages of seven points per game in losses against 11.5 per game in wins show his value to this squad. When he is aggressive and attacks the rim, it opens the game up for him and his teammates. Couisnard is averaging 14.5 points, 3 assists, and 2.5 steals over the last two games. It is not surprising that South Carolina has won both of those.
Searching for Consistency
Bryant and Leveque have each had their own issues with consistency this season. Bryant was excellent in the second half comeback versus Georgia but didn’t score on Tuesday. He was looked at as a possible All-SEC candidate heading into the season after a very good junior year. He has just four double digit scoring games this season. South Carolina needs him to get back to his rim rattling best if they want to end their postseason drought. Leveque started his junior year playing his best basketball in garnet and black but has struggle since conference play began. He played well down the stretch against Vanderbilt, so maybe he is regaining his early season form. This team need s his paint presence.
Guard and Go
Martin’s team has shown that when they play their style, they are hard to beat. This team has the ability to get after opponents defensively and get in the open court for easy buckets. The Gamecocks are 9-0 when scoring 70 or more points this season, and just 3-7 when held under that total. There are multiple guys who have shown they can carry this team on offense for a night. The problem has been getting them clicking at the same time.
Transfers James Reese and Erik Stevenson have brought shot making and a competitive mindset to this team. Freshmen guards Jacobi Wright and Devin Carter have shown flashes of what they can develop into. South Carolina has played its best when they are forcing turnovers and attacking the paint on offense. Unfortunately, they have struggled in games where they seem to settle for too many outside shots, and they have also had their own turnover issues.
Grind It out
The SEC is arguably the best conference in the country this season. There aren’t any easy nights in this league. The constant challenge each night is even more reason that the Gamecock veterans need to be at their best. South Carolina sits at 12-7 overall and 3-4 in the SEC. They travel to Texas A&M and Mississippi State in their next two contests. This team hasn’t played well away from home, so they will need to step things up if they want to build on their two-game win streak. Their postseason goals are still in sight, but this league is a grind each and every game. The Gamecocks must protect home court as best they can and try to steal a couple of wins on the road. When Couisnard and Bryant play well, this team can hang with anyone on their schedule.
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