COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A.J. Lawson and Jermaine Couisnard scored 12 points each, Jair Bolden had 11 and South Carolina dominated Wyoming defensively in a 66-32 win Sunday.
The Gamecocks (2-0) buried the Cowboys with five 3-pointers in the first eight minutes and a suffocating defense throughout. It was the fewest points USC allowed since 2005 and the fewest field goals allowed in coach Frank Martin’s nine-year tenure.
Cowboys guard Hunter Maldonado had 32 points in his season-opener but with South Carolina sophomore Justin Minaya guarding him most of the game, was held to 10. Minaya, who missed all but five games last year due to a knee injury, blanketed Maldonado and also scored three points with four rebounds and three assists
“I think I played pretty good on defense, I think we all did,” Minaya said. “Everybody was talking, communicating on the screens.”
The Cowboys (1-1) shot 23 percent from the field and only hit nine field goals.
“We were overmatched, physically. But I was happy with my guys’ willingness to come in on the road in the SEC early in the year and compete,” said coach Allen Edwards, who played JV basketball for Martin at Miami Senior High School. “Sometimes you have to go through things like this to get better.”
Minaya didn’t bring anything extra to the game, even after being out and the Gamecocks losing to Wyoming last season in Laramie. He only scored three points but had four rebounds and three assists while playing 27 minutes of lockdown defense.
“That’s who he is, man, that’s who he is,” Martin said. “I want to coach guys that want to win. He is incredible that way.”
The Gamecocks comfortably won and Martin is pleased with the depth he has, but still cautioned that he always likes to keep the offense simple early in the season. It’s much more of a freelance game instead of rigid structure.
“We’re still very vanilla, for lack of better words. I don’t like complicating things early too much, because then you leave people behind,” Martin said. “We’re further ahead than where I thought we would be offensively.”
Wyoming: The Cowboys returned eight players from last year with six playing at least 20 minutes per game and combining for 163 3-pointers. The Cowboys only hit 4 of 17 Sunday and 1 of 10 in their win over Idaho State to open the season.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks couldn’t erase the loss at Wyoming last season that was the biggest anchor weighing down its postseason hopes. The Gamecocks played like they could Sunday, controlling the boards so hard that the Cowboys only got eight rebounds in the first half. … Martin knows his team has firepower and it showed it off, with seven players scoring at least four points.
HE SAID IT
Martin has five newcomers on his team, and really 10 when considering Minaya, T.J. Moss, Couisnard and Bolden were either hurt or sitting out last season. He has constantly lauded how much he enjoys being around this team, but also realizes the teenage mind sometimes drives him out of his mind.
“I try to go home every night and understand that I was that age a long time ago. I understand sometimes at that age, I don’t know . the brain kind of goes away sometimes,” Martin said. “I’ve learned to be a little more patient.”
Couisnard sat out last season as an academic redshirt but was lauded by his teammates as a high-volume scorer in practice. He’s scored 21 points in his first two games and has shown a fearlessness about attacking the rim.
He also nailed a 3-pointer in USC’s explosive attempt to control Sunday’s game in the first five minutes.
Wyoming returns home to play Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday.
South Carolina plays Cleveland State on Friday, their third of five straight home games to start the season.
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