COLUMBIA -- There was a moment in Tuesday’s upset over No. 14 Mississippi State when Frank Martin saw a change in Maik Kotsar.
It was close to halftime, about five minutes before the first buzzer, and Kotsar had missed six of the first nine attempts he took from the field. Yet he didn’t shy away from shooting.
He kept at it and it turned into a career night for Kotsar, and it gave the Gamecocks a chance to see the kind of impact he could have on the team.
“I saw the Maik he can be and the Maik we have tried to ask him to be each and every game,” Hassani Gravett said. “We need this more often for sure.”
Kotsar finished the game with a career-high 25 points and one rebound shy of a double-double. He had an offensive rating of 142, the highest rating he’s had in an SEC game since posting a 145 against Kentucky on Jan. 16 last season.
A player that was inconsistent and tentative to shoot throughout the non-conference schedule turned into the biggest piece of the Gamecocks’ offense down the stretch of the overtime win over the Bulldogs.
He scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the second half and said postgame that was the most confident he’d been in a game since South Carolina’s Final Four run his freshman year.
“This was my most confident game offensively,” Kotsar said. “The Florida game of the NCAA Tournament during the final four run I felt good. Of course there are a few games here and there but I felt really confident.”
Now the Gamecocks are hoping he can build on that kind of performance to where he and Chris Silva could turn into a lethal front court combination during SEC play.
The biggest thing will be Kotsar keeping the same kind of mentality he carried into the Mississippi State game.
“Maik could be a guy that makes a lot of money playing basketball. He’s 260 pounds, moves his feet, can run,” Martin said. “He’s too big and too strong, too talented, too mobile to be passive. I hope this gives him confidence. When teams want to really, really focus on Chris like obviously Mississippi State was, it gets real hard to deal with both of them dudes in there. Hopefully it’s something he can continue.”
Kotsar was off to a rougher start to his third season in Columbia, averaging 8.8 points per game with an average offensive rating of 107.9.
Then he missed two games with a concussion and has been solid since, averaging 12 points per game and a 125.3 offensive rating.
Gravett joked the concussion helped his game by “knocking him upside the head,” but it definitely gave him a breather and let him refocus.
“Of course it was frustrating, but it is what it is,” Kotsar said. “We keep on practicing hard, keep working hard and the results will come.”