By Josh Hyber/Photo by Allen Sharpe
The first and second games didn’t count. The third game was on the road.
This time, it counts, and this time, South Carolina fans can enjoy the comforts of Colonial Life Arena.
On Monday at 8 p.m., the Gamecocks (1-0) play Western Michigan (1-0) in their 2017-18 home opener, a game part of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Myrtle Beach tournament, which continues later this week at the HTC Center in Conway. The Gamecocks will raise their 2017 Final Four banner prior to the game.
SC improved to 81-29 all-time in season openers after posting a 73-52 victory at Wofford last Friday. Sophomore forward Maik Kotsar led four in double-figures with 13, while graduate transfers Frank Booker and Wes Myers added 12 and 10, respectively, along with freshman forward Justin Minaya 10. Kotsar also dished a team high four assists.
The Gamecocks return just 6.4 percent of the players who made last season’s made 3-pointers, but that wasn’t a problem against the Terriers. SC made 11 of 23 (47.8%) of its attempts from beyond the arc.
Gamecock newcomers accounted for 46 of Carolina’s 73 points. South Carolina looked strong in the 2017-18 season opener, especially during the second half when the Gamecocks outscored the Terriers 40-28. Frank Martin’s defense was impressive as well, forcing 13 Wofford turnovers, and holding the Terriers to just 34.7 percent from the floor.
Western Michigan is led by head coach Steve Hawkins, who’s in his 15th season. The Broncos were picked to win the MAC Tournament this season and repeat as MAC West champs. WMU won its final eight games of the regular season last spring to claim their ninth MAC West title.
Western returns 10 letter winners from last season, including four starters. WMU is led by senior guard Thomas Wilder, who was a Preseason All-MAC West honoree. Wilder led the squad in its 103-72 victory over Sienna on Saturday in the season opener, scoring 16 points while handing out six assists. WMU was 3-10 in road games last season.