Shades of 2017? Gamecock men’s and women’s basketball teams rolling early

Posted 1/27/24

Both Gamecock basketball teams have started SEC play strong with a combined overall record of 33-3.

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Shades of 2017? Gamecock men’s and women’s basketball teams rolling early


It has been a hot start to the season for both South Carolina Gamecock basketball teams with both still in contention for a conference title and a spot in the NCAA tournament with a combined record of 33-3. 

Both teams are coming off ranked wins last week. The men upset No. 6 Kentuck on their homecourt Tuesday, and on Thursday, the Women went to LSU and defeated the ninth-ranked Tigers 

The Gamecock women’s team has successfully silenced its doubters who said the team would experience a massive dropoff after the departures of its famous “Freshies” class, which included WNBA stars Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke and Laeticia Amihere, as well as former Lexington Wildcat Olivia Thompson. 

The men’s team has seen a sudden turnaround in its second season under Lamont Paris and already surpassed its entire win total from last season. The Gamecocks are rolling in their second season under Paris and are competing near the top of the conference. 

The women enter this weekend 18-0 overall and 6-0 in the SEC. The team earned two conference wins last week, flirting with 100 points in both games, beating 98-36 and Texas A&M 99-64. The team came from behind on Thursday to defeat No. 9 LSU. 

With all the talent the team lost in the offseason, the Gamecocks have relied on its depth to win ball games, and so far, it has paid off. 

The team has five players averaging double-figure scoring, and combined the entire team averages over 90 points per contest. If that holds, that would be the highest scoring-average of the Dawn Staley era. 

Veteran center Kamilla Cardoso has stepped into the lead role for the team. She stepped into a similar role that Boston had, where she is tasked with owning the paint on both ends of the floor. 

So far this season, Cardoso has excelled at that job, leading the team in points, rebounds and blocks with 13, 10 and three per game. 

It hasn’t just been Cardoso that has stepped up. Incoming transfer guard Te-Hina Paopao is second in scoring with 12 points a contest while shooting 55% from behind the three-point line. Returners Bree Hall and Chloe Kitts average over 10 points while shooting over 50% from the floor. 

Freshman and former Keenan star MiLaysia Fulwiley has created a highlight reel of crazy plays and made major contributions in her first year. She is averaging 12 points and three rebounds while also making contributions on the defensive end. 

Sophomore Raven Johnson filled the lead guard role, becoming quite the distributor in the process. Johnson contributes about eight points per game but creates opportunities for her teammates, averaging a team-high five assists per game. 

The Gamecocks are the second-highest scoring team in the SEC, behind LSU, and allow the fewest points per contest for an average score differential of 38.6. Opponents struggle to get clean looks against this team, averaging under 30% from the floor, but the Gamecocks get the best looks, leading the conference as the only team shooting above 50%.

The team has not lost a step from last season, despite a drastically different roster. This season has proven Dawn Staley’s program does not rebuild, it reloads. 

The men’s team is off to its best start since the final four year, entering the weekend 16-3 and 4-2 in the SEC.

The Gamecocks have seen a massive turnaround from last year’s squad that went 11-21 and 4-14 in the SEC. The team returned five players from that team and is relying on a mix of their contributions and newcomers to win games. 

Two South Carolina players average double-figures. Returner Meechie Johnson leads the team in scoring with 16 points per contest, and Wofford transfer B.J. Mack adds about 14 points per game. Incoming transfers Myles Stute and Ta’Lon Cooper average nine points per contest, and freshman Collin Murray-Boyles averages seven. 

The real key to the team’s success has been their effort on the defensive side of the floor. The Gamecocks have the No. 1 ranked defense in the SEC and 34th in the country, allowing just under 65 points per.

South Carolina may not average a ton of steals, blocks or turnovers, but the team does force its opponents to take tough shots while committing the least amount of fouls per game in the SEC. 

There are still some doubts about the Gamecocks’ ability to compete with upper-tier basketball teams.

The win over Kentucky helped change the narrative, but South Carolina also suffered a 27-point loss to defending SEC champions Alabama, a narrow loss to Georgia that could come back and bite them come selection Sunday and a blown lead against a ranked Clemson team early in the season. 

With just over a month left in the season, the Gamecocks will prepare for the toughest stretch of schedule it has this season. The team still has two games against No. 6 Tennessee and No. 22 Ole Miss and a game against No. 13 Auburn. 

Gamecocks, USC athletics, Dawn Staley, Lamont Paris


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