COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Jermaine Couisnard was moping and South Carolina coach Frank Martin called him out. Following a crushing loss to Boston on Tuesday to open the Cancun Challenge, the two had a heart-to-heart talk.
On Wednesday, Couisnard had a better outlook and a better practice.
On Friday, he pushed the Gamecocks past stubborn Gardner-Webb.
The Gamecocks’ redshirt freshman guard had two three-point plays in the final two minutes of a 74-69 South Carolina win, the last immediately following the Bulldogs’ Eric Jamison sinking the go-ahead layup with 81 seconds to go.
South Carolina hurriedly inbounded and found Couisnard standing just off the paint. He didn’t hesitate, scoring while being fouled to restore the Gamecocks’ lead.
“I felt like I just ran my lane and the ball came back around to me,” said Couisnard, who tied for the team lead with 16 points. “I felt like it was a great shot, so I took it.”
The hoop and the harm gave South Carolina a two-point lead and the Gamecocks survived a missed Jose Perez layup. Couisnard attempted the game-clinching 3-pointer, but it missed.
Maik Kotsar tapped the rebound to Jair Bolden, who was fouled. South Carolina (4-1) contested a Gardner-Webb 3 and slipped away with a win.
“We were up, we knew we had to get another stop,” said an exasperated Tim Craft, coach of Gardner-Webb (0-5). “We had a chance there, still, down three, and didn’t get a great look.”
Jamison scored 19 to lead the Bulldogs and three others were in double figures. They used the same formula as Boston did when it topped the Gamecocks, drawing the defense into the lane on drives and then kicking to the wings for wide-open 3-pointers.
Gardner-Webb hit 8 of 19 from long range and flustered South Carolina with its interior defense. Forced to shoot from beyond the arc as they did against Boston, the Gamecocks hit a mere 5 of 19.
“They obviously let it be known, ‘We’re not letting you score in the post,’ ” Martin said. “We’re not guarding the ball. Boston drove the ball on us, put us on our heels the whole game. Our guys have to take ownership of guarding the dribble and right now, we’re struggling.”
A.J. Lawson also scored 16 for South Carolina. Kotsar had 11 and six rebounds, while Alanzo Frink had 10 points and five boards.
Gardner-Webb: The misery continues for the winless Bulldogs, although Friday’s loss was the closest they’ve had all season.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks rebounded from a lethargic loss to Boston on Tuesday although it wasn’t comfortable.
It was Martin’s 250th career win in his 13th season, the first five at Kansas State. He is the third-winningest coach in South Carolina history.
X MARKS THE SPOT
South Carolina almost exclusively camped on the right elbow in the second half, looking for midrange jumpers when they couldn’t drive. The Gamecocks hit six shots from that spot, elevating over Gardner-Webb’s smaller defenders.
Gardner-Webb: The Bulldogs will play Tennessee-Martin in Cancun on Tuesday and either Boston or Northern Colorado on Wednesday.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks face Wichita State, coached by South Carolina native Gregg Marshall, on Tuesday in Cancun. Martin could face his mentor, Bob Huggins, and West Virginia to finish the Challenge on Wednesday.