If South Carolina was going to knock off the No. 3 team in the country, it had to be as close to full strength as possible. The Gamecocks announced before the game that starters Maik Kotsar (concussion) and T.J. Moss (ankle sprain) were out “indefinitely.”
If South Carolina was going to knock of the No. 3 team in the country, it was going to need a big night from Chris Silva. He had four points and three fouls early in the second half..
If South Carolina was going to knock off the No. 3 team in the country, it was going to need something unexpected. With 3:23 left in the first half, Alanzo Frink hit a deep 3-pointer.
USC, down and depleted, produced little sparks of life Wednesday against top 5 Virginia. But the Gamecocks just didn’t have enough Frink-like moments to pull off the upset.
Virginia 69, Carolina 52
The Gamecocks (4-6) have dropped three straight games. The Cavaliers (10-0) remain perfect.
Frink’s 3 — the first of the freshman’s career — cut the UVa lead to 27-26, whipping the 12,000-plus in Colonial Life Arena into a frenzy. The sound was reminiscent of big home games past, like when the Gamecocks rallied to shock SEC power Kentucky last season.
But the momentum lasted for only so long. Virginia, courtesy of its own long-range shooting, scored the final six points of the period.
“So instead of going in the locker room feeling good,” said USC coach Frank Martin, “we go in the locker room down seven. Being down seven to Virginia is like being down 21 to other people.”
The Cavaliers opened the second half on a 15-7 run and never looked back. The Carolina deficit stretched to as many as 19.
UVa came as advertised, forcing the Gamecocks to play efficient offense on one end and be patient on the other. The Cavaliers, as Tony Bennett-coached teams normally do, won the game by enforcing their unique style of play.
“They did whatever they were game-planned to do on defense,” said USC guard Hassani Gravett. “On offense, the plays that we worked on in practice, they didn’t execute the way we needed to.”
Virginia’s Ty Jerome led all scorers with 25 points. Silva led the Gamecocks with 11. The Gamecocks shot 36 percent from the floor, 17 percent from 3.
Stars of the game: Virginia’s backcourt combination of Jerome and Kyle Guy totaled 43 points and seven assists. The juniors’ experience shined against USC’s young guards.
“They attacked our freshmen,” Martin said. “And then our freshmen got discouraged. And you when you get discouraged, you break down. And when you break down, they just attacked.”
Carolina got a lift from Frink. He scored a career-high nine points and grabbed a career-best eight rebounds.
Play of the game: After Frink’s 3, Virginia responded with 3s from Guy and Jerome.
“(It wasn’t) because they ran good offense,” Martin said, “it was become we lost focus on the back-side of the zone and didn’t realize where their shooter was at.”
Stat of the game: The Cavaliers shot 50 percent from the field in the second half.
More injuries: The following Gamecocks have now missed games because of injuries this season: Alanzo Frink (six), Justin Minaya (five), Moss (three) and Kotsar (one).
The latest on Moss and Kotsar forced Martin to used his fourth different starting lineup in 10 games — G A.J. Lawson, G Tre Campbell, F Keyshawn Bryant, F Felipe Haase, F Chris Silva.
Home court advantage?: While most of the students were gone for the holiday break, Wednesday’s crowd was by far the best of the season.
Though those clad in orange and blue helped.
“(We had) more Virginia fans than South Carolina fans at our game today,” Martin said, in midst of rant about negative coverage of his team. “This reminded me of my first year here, when we’re out-numbered. And that’s because we continue to put out the wording on stories pertaining to our team. That makes everyone think that we’re not good enough.”
Who: Clemson at South Carolina
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
VIRGINIA 69, SOUTH CAROLINA 52VIRGINIA (10-0)
Diakite 5-6 0-1 10, Salt 1-3 2-4 4, Jerome 9-15 4-4 25, Hunter 2-10 1-1 5, Guy 6-14 1-1 18, Key 2-6 1-2 5, Clark 1-4 0-0 2, Anthony 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 9-13 69.
SOUTH CAROLINA (4-6)
Halftime_Virginia 33-26. 3-Point Goals_Virginia 8-24 (Guy 5-11, Jerome 3-8, Clark 0-1, Key 0-2, Hunter 0-2), South Carolina 3-18 (Haase 1-1, Frink 1-2, Lawson 1-3, Bryant 0-1, Campbell 0-2, Silva 0-2, Hinson 0-3, Gravett 0-4). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Virginia 31 (Salt 9), South Carolina 35 (Frink 8). Assists_Virginia 15 (Jerome 7), South Carolina 9 (Lawson 3). Total Fouls_Virginia 15, South Carolina 15. A_12,291 (18,000).Bryant 3-6 0-0 6, Haase 1-2 0-0 3, Silva 4-12 3-5 11, Campbell 0-2 2-2 2, Lawson 1-5 4-4 7, Frink 4-8 0-2 9, Gravett 5-14 0-0 10, Hinson 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 20-55 9-13 52.