Justin Minaya had 17 points and 11 rebounds as South Carolina used a 14-0 second half-run to win its 19th straight season opener, 77-55 over visiting North Alabama on Wednesday night.
George Washington transfer Jair Bolden added 14 points for the Gamecocks, who shot 50 percent from the field, but needed some time to put away North Alabama for the opening victory. South Carolina led only 43-39 with a little more than 15 minutes left in the second half, but Bolden scored at 14:42 to push the lead to six, then hit his team’s first 3-pointer of the season moments later.
Minaya, who missed all but five games last season due to a knee injury, followed with back-to-back field goals to increase the Gamecocks’ lead to 52-39. Jermaine Couisnard added a 3 and freshman Trae Hannibal delivered a bucket to make it 57-39 and give the hosts complete control.
C.J. Brim led North Alabama with 12 points. The Lions, in their second season of Division I basketball, shot just 24.2 percent and went 2-for-21 from beyond the arc. However, North Alabama hung around until early in the second half thanks to 13 offensive rebounds and forcing 20 turnovers.
South Carolina also held Lions guard Jamari Blackmon, who averaged a team-leading 14.6 points last season, to six points on 2-of-12 shooting Wednesday.
The Gamecocks used a pair of 6-0 runs in the first half to lead by as many as 11 through the first 20 minutes. It also helped that North Alabama went 0-for-12 from 3-point range during the half and recorded just two field goals over the final 12 minutes while shooting 6 of 32 overall to trail 37-27 at the break.
Gamecocks freshman Jalyn McCreary (nine points) made the first four field goals of his career and scored six straight points at one stretch of the first half.
—Field Level Media