College Sports

South Carolina-Wyoming basketball: 5 things to watch — and how to watch the game

South Carolina last season went nearly three months before winning consecutive games. It finally came Dec. 31 to Jan. 5 when the Gamecocks followed a rout of Division II North Greenville with an upset of Florida in SEC opener.

So, yes, USC (1-0) on Sunday is seeking its first win streak in non-conference play since December 2017 when Wyoming (1-0) comes to Colonial Life Arena for a noon tip-off.

SEC Network will televise the game. Here are five things to watch:

1. Redemption

The obvious here: South Carolina lost to Wyoming last season.

The Cowboys won eight games in 2018-19, and one of them came against a team that finished fourth in the SEC. It was a head-scratching result that returning Gamecock players admitted this week cost them a shot at the postseason.

This time, though, the game is in Columbia and Justin James, the Cowboy who dropped 20 on the Gamecocks in Laramie, is with the Sacramento Kings. Wyoming guard Hunter Maldonado, who had nine points against the Gamecocks last season, is coming off a 32-point performance in the Cowboys’ opener.

2. Reunion

Frank Martin is connecting with his Miami roots for the second time in a week.

A game after facing North Alabama’s Tony Pujol, who grew up in the same Little Havana neighborhood as Martin, Wyoming’s Allen Edwards comes to town. Edwards played for Martin at Miami Senior High School in the 1990s.

This is the third game of this series, which began in 2017-18 with an 80-64 Gamecock win at Colonial Life Arena.

3. Return

Trae Hannibal and Jalyn McCreary played significant minutes in Wednesday’s season-opening win over North Alabama. The next freshman poised for similar action is Wildens Leveque.

The 6-foot-11 rookie big man, who led the team in blocks in the exhibition win over Columbia International, was kept out of the North Alabama game because of a swollen right big toe. He’s expected back for Sunday, which could impact Martin’s lineup management.

Leveque’s absence occasionally slid the 6-6 Justin Minaya to the “four” or power forward position. The Gamecocks outscored the Lions by 14 points with Minaya at that spot. The redshirt sophomore totaled 17 points and 11 rebounds.

4. Turnovers

Martin didn’t have to dig too deep into the box score to find flaws in USC’s 22-point win Wednesday. He called the performance “sloppy,” and alluding to the 20 turnovers and 17 missed free throws, among other things.

Take away McCreary and Alanzo Frink’s combined 1 for 10 showing, and Carolina is a much more respectable 69 percent from the line against the Lions. The turnovers, though, were more widespread, coming from nine different players.

Martin’s teams have averaged just 2.6 20-turnover games a season. Wyoming forced 15 turnovers in its 54-40 win over Idaho State on Tuesday.

5. Crowd

A noon Sunday tip for a non-conference game after a Saturday night football game doesn’t exactly heighten the chances for a big crowd at Colonial Life Arena.

The North Alabama game, however, produced an announced crowd of 11,927, the third-most of Martin’s eight home openers, ranking behind 2016-17 (coming off 25-win season) and 2017-18 (Final Four banner raising).

WYOMING AT SOUTH CAROLINA

Where: Colonial Life Arena

When: Noon Sunday

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area

Projected starting lineups

Wyoming (1-0)

G Jake Hendricks 4.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg

G Greg Milton III 4.0 ppg, 1.0 apg

G Hunter Maldonado 32.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

F Austin Mueller 1.0 ppg 7.0 rpg

F Hunter Thompson 4.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg

South Carolina (1-0)

G Jair Bolden 14.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg

G A.J. Lawson 8.0 ppg, 4.0 apg

F Justin Minaya 17.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg

F Alanzo Frink 6.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg

F Maik Kotsar 6.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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