COLUMBIA – South Carolina hit a season-high 13 3-pointers to cruise past Rider 88-76 in a nonconference game Monday night, but first-year coach Frank Martin was unhappy with the defensive effort for a second straight game.
The Gamecocks, off to their first 3-0 start since 2009, shot 53.3 percent (32 of 60) from the floor — including 17 of 28 in the second half — and 48.1 percent (13 of 27) from the 3-point line, but it was Rider’s 50.9 percent (27 of 53) from the floor that drew Martin’s ire.
“Right now, we’re depending on the ball going into the basket and we’re not controlling the things we can control,” Martin said. “I just told the players, when it catches you, don’t be surprised and cry about what it smells like. We’re dealing with fool’s gold right now and that has to change.”
Senior LaShay Page agreed with his coach.
“We didn’t guard very well tonight,” Page said. “Our on-ball defense was terrible. That’s not coach Martin’s philosophy, and we have to find a way to get better guarding the ball.”
Despite the defensive shortcomings that allowed the Broncs (2-2) to score 42 points in the paint, the Gamecocks topped 82 points for the third game in a row. Their highest point total while going 10-21 last season was 79 in a victory over South Carolina State.
Junior Brenton Williams made five 3-pointers to lead the way as he scored a career-high 22 points to pace four Gamecocks in double figures. Freshman Mindaugas Kacinas added a career-best 18 points, Lakeem Jackson finished with 14 and Page chipped in with 12 points.
The Gamecocks went ahead by 10 points on a 3-pointer by Page with 11:30 remaining and the lead never dipped below double-digits the rest of the way. A 10-4 run that ended with a Kacinas layup with 4:49 left pushed the lead to 17, and it reached as many as 20 points.
Williams finished 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and Page was 4 of 9.
“We knew against the zone there were going to be some 3s to be made, especially those corner 3s against that half-court trap,” Martin said. “My rule with with 3s is that ball better get in the paint first. We got 3s that came off dribble-drive, kicks, make the extra pass and shot it in. We didn’t get tricked into shooting it early, so that was a positive.”
Freshman Michael Carrera missed his second straight game with a concussion he suffered in practice last week, so South Carolina was left with only eight healthy scholarship players. The Gamecocks battled early foul trouble and had to play more zone than in their first two games.
Page, their leading scorer with 19.5 points a game coming in, played only five minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls. All five Gamecocks’ starters had at least two fouls at the half, but South Carolina still led 44-37 with a balanced attack that saw five players score at least six points.
South Carolina opened the second half with two 3-pointers by Williams and another by Page, but the Broncs hung around thanks to the play of junior guard Nurideen Lindsey. He scored 19 of his game-high 26 points in the second half.
Jonathon Thompson added 14 points and Anthony Myles chipped in 13 points for Rider.