CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Jair Bolden made an early 3-pointer for South Carolina and drew a charge a short time later and paused, staring a Virginia player down after the play.
It was a product of Bolden being excited to be playing against No. 9 Virginia, the defending national champion, and on national television, coach Frank Martin said, but it didn’t sit well with the Gamecocks coach at all.
“I don’t coach that. I’m not going to condone that. It’s not about us individually. It’s about us doing our jobs so we can all have success together,” Martin said, surmizing that offering him a spot on the bench got his attention.
Gamecocks assistants also helped and “just got him refocused and he came back in and that was never a part of … the rest of the game either. I don’t know why he did that. That’s why I took him out,” Martin said.
When Bolden came back in, he ignited the Gamecocks, scoring 15 of his season-high 22 points before halftime in a 70-59 victory against the Cavaliers.
“One of the things that excites us is when we play against teams that are good opponents, and we’ve been playing great teams,” Bolden said, adding that Martin’s glare was “scary, even though he’s on our side. You learn from it.”
Virginia coach Tony Bennett wishes his team had learned from Bolden’s early shooting display. He was 6 for 9 by halftime with a trio of 3-pointers.
“I thought he had too many uncontested or open window shots,” Bennett said.
The biggest one may have been the first one.
“When he jumped up and made that 3 early in he game, it gave our guys some life,” Martin said, and the Gamecocks raced to an early 13-5 advantage.
A.J. Lawson had 10 of his 14 points in the second half and Justin Minaya had 10 of his 12 after the break for the Gamecocks (8-4). They led 23-11, saw Virginia pull even at 45 with just over 11 minutes to play and promptly scored 12 of the next 17 points. The Cavaliers never got closer than five the rest of the way.
Martin called a timeout in the middle of a 13-3 run by Virginia that pulled them even, but watched as the Cavaliers closed the gap, letting his team figure it out.
“I’m sitting on the bench saying, `Wow! That’s pretty neat,” he said of seeing them respond. Maik Kotsar started it with an inside basket, Keyshawn Bryant also scored and Lawson hit a free throw. After the Cavaliers closed it back to 51-50, Lawson hit a pair of free throws and Minaya and Bolden scored.
“We had stretches of solid basketball, but not enough,” Bennett said.
Mamadi Diakite scored a career-high 21 points to lead Virginia (9-2). The Cavaliers had a season-high 19 turnovers, leading to 23 Gamecocks points. South Carolina shot 55.1%, connecting on 27 of 49 attempts.
South Carolina: Bolden finished 8 for 13 from the field and 4 for 6 from beyond the arc. Minaya was 5 for 9 and Lawson was 5 fo 12. The Gamecocks had a 23-13 edge in points off turnovers and a 16-6 edge in fast break points.
Virginia: Ball security has become an issue for the Cavaliers, especially in the person of sophomore point guard Kihei Clark, who committed six (of the team’s 11) turnovers in a victory against Stony Brook and seven more against the Gamecocks. “At times we beat ourselves,” Bennett said.
The Gamecocks have some time off before facing Stetson on Dec. 30 at home.
Virginia faces Navy at John Paul Jones Arena next Sunday.