South Carolina coach Frank Martin didn’t want to schedule a game two days after Christmas, but given the circumstances of the next opponent not being able to play a day later, he brought the Gamecocks back to the practice floor Christmas night.
They followed that with another spirited practice on Monday, so it came as little surprise that South Carolina played maybe it’s best first half of the season against Division II Lander Tuesday night at the Colonial Life Arena, in a 90-62 victory.
It’s the second half that didn’t fully please Martin. He was hoping to get a solid 40-minute effort but it fell short of that.
“It’s a shame we played the way we did in the second half. We have a responsibility to play to who we are for 40 minutes,” Martin said. “It’s not our talent, it’s not our desire, it’s our immaturity. It’s not the first-year guys. The immaturity of our older guys is unfortunate.”
Lander (3-7) scored the first basket of the game before South Carolina held the Bearcats without a field goal for a 10:14 of the first half. That led to USC scoring 19 consecutive points in part of a 29-1 run. The Gamecocks led 53-16 at the break and shot 60.6 percent from the field.
“I thought we were excited to play, I thought we played through our disciplines,” Martin said of the first half effort. “I thought we played with unselfishness on defense and offense. The one thing I saw was the ball was moving, players were moving and when guys were open, they made the shot.”
Rakym Felder scored a career-high 20 points, which included the freshman going 5-for-7 from 3-point range. P.J. Dozier continued his strong play with 15 points and freshman Maik Kotsar recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Duane Notice added 13 points.
Felder scored 15 points in the first half. It’s been a learning process for the Brooklyn guard since he missed time in the summer with a broken foot then had legal trouble.
He only played five minutes in the last game against Clemson, but sandwiched that with outings of 11 and 20 points.
“I feel like my confidence is coming along with my teammates and coaches encouraging me,” Felder said. “Getting repetition in practice has given the biggest confidence boost.”
Nobody played more than 25 minutes, with nine of the 13 players that dressed scoring. Despite the second half that saw Lander outscore the Gamecocks 46-27, it was a solid tune-up considering the schedule will be difficult the rest of the way.
South Carolina (10-2) will return to action on Friday at Memphis in the final nonconference contest of the season.
Martin hopes to build on the first half and forget what happen in the second.
“I’m going to try to ignore the second half. I wasn’t happy. They know it,” Martin said. “We’re going to try and build on what we did in the first half and try to play to that personality for a full forty minutes. The better we can do that, the closer we can become the team I think we can be.”