Kotsar Shines as South Carolina Rolls Past Missouri, 76-54

USC Gamecocks
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) —Maik Kotsar, a senior and the last player left from South Carolina’s Final Four run of 2017, had his best game of the season. Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says a big assist goes to freshman point guard Jermaine Couisnard. Kotsar had a season-high 21 points and 11 rebounds in South Carolina’s 76-54 victory over Missouri on Saturday.

Martin praised Kotsar’s aggressiveness, drive and hustle in finishing with his second double-double this season and fourth of his career. But it’s the youthful leadership of Couisnard that’s lifted Kotsar and his teammates during a stretch where the Gamecocks (13-8, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) have won three in a row and five of their past six SEC games.

“I really feel like that’s given our team a chance,” South Carolina’s Martin said. “And helped Maik, which he needed.”

Kotsar, at 6-foot-10, is talented and relentless. But confrontation? That’s not his game, his coach said.

Having Couisnard, a tough-minded leader who’s unafraid to call out teammates for subpar play, has unified the team during SEC play, Martin said.

It certainly did for Kotsar, who made his first seven shots and had eight defensive boards in the opening half as the Gamecocks built a double-digit lead. Kotsar also had four of South Carolina’s nine blocks – the team’s best showing in SEC play this season.

“We got stops,” Kotsar said. “And we got confidence on offense.”

Missouri (10-11, 2-6), which rallied from 20 points down to beat Georgia last Thursday, cut a 16-point lead to 52-43 with 11 minutes left. But Kotsar hit two free throws and a short jumper to start a 9-0 run and restore the Gamecocks’ comfortable margin.

“Maik played his best game in a uniform here,” South Carolina’s Martin said.

Couisnard finished with 15 points and AJ Lawson 13 off three 3-pointers for South Carolina.

Xavier Pinson had three of Missouri’s four 3-pointers and led the Tigers with 12 points. Missouri has lost five of its past six games. Pinson said the Tigers must do a better job hitting the shots they get. They finished at 32.8% (19 of 58), the fifth time in six games they’ve shot less than 40%.

“For the most part, we got a lot of shots that we liked,” Pinson said. “We’ve just got to knock them down.”

South Carolina has played strong defense during its recent run and that continued against Missouri.

The Gamecocks held the Tigers to 1-of-10 shooting on the way to an 11-3 start. Things only got worse for Missouri after that.

South Carolina scored on five of six possessions in the opening period to stretch things to 30-15 on T.J. Moss’ 3-pointer.

The Gamecocks forced nine turnovers and had eight blocks the first 20 minutes. Kotsar was a huge part of South Carolina’s defense with eight defensive rebounds, four blocks and a steal in his 10 minutes.

The Tigers were without second- and third-leading scorers Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon for this one. Smith came out in the second half of Missouri’s last game with lower back issues and was out of the lineup at South Carolina. Tilmon has missed the past eight games with a stress fracture in his left foot.

KEY STATS
> South Carolina was dominant on the defensive end from the opening tip, limiting the Tigers to 33 percent (19-for-58) shooting from the field.
> Offensively, the Gamecocks shot 50 percent or higher for the third straight game, finishing today’s contest 25-of-49 (51 percent).

NOTABLES
> South Carolina has not trailed since the 17:20 mark in the first half vs. Vanderbilt (1/25/20) when it was behind, 7-6.
> Senior Maik Kotsar had a big day, finishing with 21 points (7-for-8 FGs) and 11 rebounds for his second double-double this season (fourth career). The Tallinn, Estonia, native, also added a season-high four blocks. He was a career-best, 7-of-10 at the charity stripe as well.
> Redshirt freshman Jermaine Couisnard had 15 points and a team-high six assists, which matches a career high. The East Chicago, Ind., native, has now led the team in assists in nine games this season.
> Sophomore AJ Lawson continued his strong play on the offensive end, as he had 13 points (3-for-6 3FGs) and matched a season-high with seven rebounds. In the past five games, he’s scored in double figures every contest and is a combined 27-for-48 (56.3%) from the field.
> Ten different players scored for the Gamecocks today.

UP NEXT
The Gamecocks continue their mid-week road travels when head east to Oxford on Wednesday night to face Ole Miss (10-11, 1-7 SEC). Tip time is set for 7 p.m. ET with Roy Philpott (play-by-play) and Mark Wise (analyst) on the call for the SEC Network broadcast.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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