Keyshawn Bryant returns, Gamecocks top Rider for 4th straight win. What we learned

·3 min read

Playing for the first time this season with a complete roster, the South Carolina men’s basketball team struggled to get in sync Sunday afternoon against Rider.

The Gamecocks fell into an early hole against a Broncs (3-5) team that won just six games a year ago, but Frank Martin’s team prevailed in the second half, overcoming Rider with a 65-58 win.

The win marked the fourth straight for the Gamecocks (5-1), who are off to their best start to a season since 2017-18.

Here’s what we learned about the Gamecocks on Sunday.

Bryant makes season debut

After serving a five-game suspension due to a violation of athletic department policy, senior forward Keyshawn Bryant made his season debut for the Gamecocks against the Broncs. With forward A.J. Wilson making his season debut in the previous game after battling a back injury and the flu, the Gamecocks played with a complete roster for the first time.

Bryant’s return is a key one for the Gamecocks, as the senior is USC’s top returning scorer and rebounder from a year ago. Serving as a sixth man off the bench, much like last season, Bryant provided an immediate spark when he checked in at the 14-minute mark Sunday, drawing a loud applause from the Colonial Life Arena crowd.

He scored his first two points of the year on a baseline jumper and created a highlight-reel moment with an alley-oop pass to Wildens Leveque. He also helped fuel a 7-0 run at the end of the half with a step-back jumper and a transition bucket. Midway through the second half, Bryant banked a deep 3-pointer to tie the game at 36-36 and surged down the stretch to post a game-high 17 points.

Shooters cool down

In USC’s 85-74 win over Wofford, the Gamecocks had seemingly solved the deep-shooting woes that plagued them in the first few games. USC made a season-high 12 3-pointers in 22 attempts, and 3-point specialist Erik Stevenson had his best performance of the season, making five of his seven 3-point looks and scoring 25 points.

On Sunday, that hot streak evaporated.

Stevenson missed his first five 3-point attempts before making two in the second half. He finished the game with 10 points. The Gamecocks made just six of 20 attempts from the perimeter, and those shooting struggles carried over to the free-throw line, where USC went 15-for-26.

Inconsistency from the bigs

Martin has pointed to inconsistency from his big men as an area of weakness, and that remained the case for USC against Rider.

Though larger in stature than the Broncs, the Gamecocks couldn’t take advantage on the boards, with the teams finishing near even in rebounding. USC held a slim 38-37 on the boards.

Meanwhile, the big men quartet of Leveque, Wilson, Josh Gray and Ta’Quan Woodley combined for just 12 points. The 6-foot-10 Leveque did finish the game on a strong note, however, scoring seven points in the second half to help the Gamecocks pull away.

Next USC men’s basketball game

Who: South Carolina at Coastal Carolina

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: HTC Center in Conway

Watch: Streaming on ESPN Plus

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