COLUMBIA – Renewing a rivalry that began during the 1910-11 season, Newberry met the University of South Carolina on the hardwood for a men’s basketball exhibition Sunday afternoon at the Colonial Life Arena, falling to the Division I Gamecocks 107-89.
The Wolves and Gamecocks were tied as late as the six-minute mark of the first half and Newberry trailed by just seven points at halftime before a 13-2 South Carolina run early in the second stanza gave the Gamecocks a comfortable cushion. Newberry cut the lead to as few as 14 points on two occasions, but South Carolina was able to fend off the Wolves for the final 18-point margin.
The Wolves had five players in double figures, led by 13 from James Stepp and Sikander Nielsen. Mason Spease scored 12 points, while Marshall Lange and Jamaal Satisfield chipped in 11 and 10, respectively. Six Wolves tallied multiple assists as Newberry had 18 helpers on 33 made field goals.
“I’m ridiculously proud of my team for not being intimidated by South Carolina or by this atmosphere,” said head coach Dave Davis. “We played hard and aggressive and took South Carolina out of what they wanted to do.
“In the second half they wore us down physically, but it was unbelievable for our guys to come into this environment and handle themselves like they did. To know you can compete with an SEC team on their home court will give our guys confidence for the entire season. I think what you saw out here tonight was a Newberry team that just enjoyed playing basketball.”
“A lot of guys that have my job don’t schedule Dave,” said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. “They’ve taken big teams to the wire. They’ve beaten big teams. And at times, their guys were playing harder than some of our guys.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Dave. He does an unbelievable job, he’s got a great demeanor, and did you see how hard they played? It was a joy to watch them play.”
The contest included a multitude of highlights for the Wolves, who gave up an average of six inches to their South Carolina counterparts. Down but not out, Newberry embarked on a 22-10 run in a 5:04 second-half span that trimmed the South Carolina deficit to 14 points at 91-77 with 5:45 to play before the Gamecocks extended the lead over the final minutes.
Earlier in the contest, Nielsen’s triple from the left corner gave Newberry a 10-8 lead with 15:39 to play in the first half. The game saw four ties and a pair of lead changes and was deadlocked as late as the 6:01 mark of the first half following a three-point play by Xavier Hill that made the score 32-32.
Additionally, two three-point field goals by Spease and a third by Lange in a 60-second span cut the Gamecocks’ lead to 22-21 as the first half neared the midway point.
A large Newberry contingent made the short trip down Interstate 26, nearly filling Section 106 of the cavernous facility to capacity and giving the Wolves several hundred supporters amongst crowd several thousand strong.
“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often,” said Gerald Evans. “Playing in an SEC arena is something we can cherish for the rest of our lives.”
“This was one of the biggest games of our careers,” Spease added.
Despite playing in different NCAA divisions, Newberry and South Carolina share a significant basketball history. The Wolves and Gamecocks have met 53 times in regular-season contests, with South Carolina holding a 32-20-1 advantage in a series that dates back over a century. Newberry accumulated a 9-2-1 record over the first 12 meetings.
The teams last met in regular-season competition on Jan. 7, 1955, with the Gamecocks taking a 112-63 decision in Newberry. Newberry’s last win in the series came at MacLean Gymnasium on the Newberry campus on Feb. 3, 1939, a 43-29 victory by the then-Indians.
Both teams were also coached at one time by the legendary Billy Laval. He won 68 games as the head coach of Newberry’s men’s basketball program from 1938-50 after leading South Carolina to the 1933 Southern Conference Tournament championship. He also coached both school’s football teams and won 147 games in 12 seasons as the Newberry baseball coach.
Newberry begin the regular season Friday morning at 12:01 a.m., facing off against Erskine, UNC Charlotte in an exhibition, and North Greenville within a 40-hour span.
This release provided by Newberry College.