Martin wins Gamecocks debut over UW-Milwaukee
COLUMBIA (AP) — Brenton Williams scored 12 of his 14 points in overtime as South Carolina overcame a 17-point deficit in the second half to defeat Wisconsin-Milwaukee 82-75 Sunday in Frank Martin’s debut as Gamecocks coach.
Most of the way, the Gamecocks (1-0) looked like the last-place Southeastern Conference team that lost 11 of its final 12 and led to Martin’s hiring in March. They trailed 40-23 early in the second half. But South Carolina ended the period on a 26-12 run and tied things on two foul shots by freshman Mindaugas Kacinas to force the extra period.
That’s when Williams took over. He hit consecutive layups for a 74-68 lead then kept the Gamecocks out front going 8-for-8 from the foul line.
Jordan Aaron had 28 points to lead the Panthers (1-1).
Southern Miss transfer LaShay Page led the Gamecocks with 19 points, and freshman Michael Carrera added 17 points and 15 rebounds.
The Gamecocks had cut Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s lead to 63-58 with 4:32 to go when Theirno Niang hit the team’s 13th 3-pointer to give them an eight-point cushion with under 4 minutes to go.
Kacinas began the final charge in regulation with an inside bucket, Carrera had a putback, and Eric Smith drove in for a layup to make it 66-64 with 1:18 to go.
After Niang missed a 3-point try, Kacinas found himself with the ball outside the 3-point line and time running down. He got fouled by Kyle Kelm on the long-range attempt and made 2-of-3 free throws to tie the game.
Carrera got things going in overtime with two foul shots as South Carolina moved in front for the first time since early in the opening half. Kacinas followed with two more foul shots before Williams took over.
Aaron made seven of the Panthers’ 14 3-pointers in his first Division I game. James Haarsma had 14 points for Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which hit just 2 of 10 field goals in overtime.
South Carolina fans had been waiting for Martin’s debut since he left Kansas State to take the job in March. The Gamecocks had appeared to be building in the first two seasons with ex-coach Darrin Horn – remember South Carolina’s stunning upset of No. 1 Kentucky in 2010? – before things crashed the past two years.
The Gamecocks went just 2-14 in the Southeastern Conference last year, and Martin was hired to turn things back around. He got a six-year contract, and it looks like he’ll need much of it steadying his young team.
The Gamecocks took a hit earlier Sunday when Martin announced the team’s tallest player, 6-foot-11 freshman Laimonas Chatkevicius, was suspended for the six games because the NCAA determined he’d received impermissible benefits from his host family before enrolling at South Carolina.
Still, South Carolina took a 14-11 lead on Brenton Williams’ bucket with 12:38 left in the opening half when the Panthers took off on a 21-5 run. Aaron hit a pair 3s, and Demetrius Harris had 6 points in the surge as Milwaukee led 32-19.
The Gamecocks cut things to nine points when Aaron struck again with two more 3-pointers in the final minute for a 38-23 lead at the half.
Martin and his staff dressed in formal attire and bowties. He kept his calm but showed off his famed glare. He broke it out and locked onto his point guard, Eric Smith, when Aaron was left open for a 3. “What happened?” Martin asked as Smith avoided his coach’s sharp, laser-like stare.
When senior Lakeem Jackson was whistled for traveling, Martin sat in his chair hands covering his face.
In the second half, Martin furiously chewed out Williams before the junior got going in overtime.