Lawson Leads South Carolina Past Cleveland State 90-63

Lawson Leads South Carolina Past Cleveland State 90-63
AJ Lawson has 28 points to lead South Carolina to a win over Cleveland State on Friday (Source: South Carolina Athletics)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- AJ Lawson had a career-high 28 points and South Carolina opened the second half with an 18-2 burst to roll past Cleveland State 90-63 on Friday night.

Lawson, the team's top returning scorer from last season, had a 3-pointer and a three-point play in the first two minutes of the second half as the Gamecocks opened 3-0 for the first time since their Final Four season of 2016-17.

Cleveland State (1-3) hung tough for a half, rallying from 17 points down the firsts 20 minutes to trail just 45-40 at the break. But the Vikings of the Horizon League could not contain their larger, quicker opponents and fell to 2-7 all-time against Southeastern Conference teams.

Alanzo Frink had the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 10 rebounds, both career-bests for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina seemed to have this locked up early, taking a 33-16 lead on TJ Moss's 3-pointer with 10:16 left in the opening half. But the Vikings rallied and outscored the Gamecocks 24-8 the rest of the period.

Cleveland State played smart and efficient in the opening half, steadily moving the ball around and waiting for the open shot. The Vikings made 14 of 25 attempts (56%) and clawed their way back in it despite 12 turnovers in the period.

Tre Gomillion led Cleveland State with 18 points while Algevon Eichelberger had 13, all but two coming in the first half.

The Gamecocks built their large lead from the outside as Jermaine Couisnard and Jair Bolden and Moss combined for four 3-pointers in a 17-4 run midway through opening half. But they missed their final six shots from behind the arc the rest of the half.

Lawson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, surpassed his previous best of 25 points set against Coastal Carolina last November.

Maik Kotsar, a senior who played on the Final Four team, had a career high 12 rebounds for the Gamecocks.

Key Stats

> South Carolina held a five-point lead at the half, but used an 18-2 run over the first 6:36 of the second half to take a commanding 21-point advantage

> Carolina was strong on the glass, especially on the offensive end in the win over Cleveland State, pulling down 26 offensive boards - matching for the most under the direction of Frank Martin - with sophomore forward Alanzo Frink collecting eight, and senior forward Maik Kotsar seven.

Notables

> Sophomore guard AJ Lawson connected on seven baskets to go along with a 12-of-13 mark at the free throw line to post a career high 28 points in the win over Cleveland State. Lawson also dished four assists in a season high 29 minutes of action.

> Frink posted the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 10 rebounds vs. the Vikings. Both marks also marked a career high.

> Rookie forward Wildens Leveque hit all four of his shot attempts and was 4-of-5 at the charity stripe for the first double-figure scoring performance of his career. He scored 12, to go along with a block and two steals in the win.

> The Carolina defense held CSU to just 39.2 percent from the floor. The Gamecocks have held each of their three opponents this season to under 40 percent from the floor, and also 20 or fewer baskets in each contest as well.

> Through the first three games of the campaign, Gamecock opponents have connected on just 8-of-49 attempts from 3-point range, 16.3 percent.

Up Next

> South Carolina continues its lengthy homestand to begin the season when it hosts Boston U on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Tip time for the contest, which is part of the upcoming Cancun Challenge, is set for 7 p.m. ET, at Colonial Life Arena.