COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Freshman guard Jaylen Shaw was almost an afterthought the first three games of the season for South Carolina. He had played only four minutes all season and didn't see the floor in a loss on the road at Baylor. But he provided a huge spark off the bench with 16 points and five assists in 26 minutes of action to help propel the Gamecocks to an 84-72 victory over Florida International Sunday.
"Over the last six or seven days, (Shaw) is starting to come (on)," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. "He had three unbelievable days of practice. All I can ever ask is for players to go out and do what they're asked to do, listen and go out and compete their tails off. When they do that, it's my duty to play him. He deserved the right to be on the court."
Martin has a policy that freshman aren't allowed to talk with the media until after the first semester but starting point guard Tyrone Johnson, who had a team-high 18 points, said the way Shaw competed in practice the last few days was an indication that he might have a solid game.
Shaw was 6-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-7 from three-point range.
"Jaylen prepared himself the best since he's been here," Johnson said. "Coach told him, 'you're going to play because you prepared yourself.' He went after people in practice and competed and it translated over to the game."
The Gamecocks (2-2) snapped a two-game losing streak and halted the Panthers six-game winning streak, the longest for the program since 2000.
It was a change in defense at the half that proved to be a difference. Florida International (6-3) had its way against South Carolina's man-to-man defense in the first half. The Panthers were able to drive to the basket for easy baskets or kick it back out for open 3-pointers. Neither team led by more than four points in the opening half but Florida International scored the final seven points to take a 42-39 lead at the break.
The Gamecocks switched to a zone defense in the second half and that seemed to slow the Panthers attack.
"Coach got on us at halftime about those guys driving to the basket," Johnson said. "He coached us. He said play twenty minutes and protect our home court or we're going to lose. It was simple as that. He made a switch to us going to zone which kept them out of the paint a little bit. Their shooters weren't hitting in the second half. In the first half, they were making shots because they were driving and penetrating."
Florida International coach Anthony Evans said the switch had an effect on his team. They made 14-of-25 field goals in the first half but only connected on 10-of-25 in the second half.
"It was a hard fought game but South Carolina took over in the second half, especially towards the end," Evans said. "They rebounded, the executed and they slowed us down in the zone."
It was still a seesaw affair the opening seven minutes of the second half but the Gamecocks went on a 12-6 spurt to take the lead for good. Shaw hit a 3-pointer and lay-up during the stretch that gave South Carolina a 61-55 lead with a little over ten minutes remaining.
The lead was between six and ten points the rest as Johnson added seven free throws in the final two minutes.
"I knew this was going to be a hard game," Martin said. "I was happy with the way we protected our home court in the second half but I continue to be unhappy with our perimeter defense. Our perimeter defense is not any good. We don't put up fight in our man-to-man. I knew we had to play some zone because of the match-ups."
Brenton Williams came off the bench to add 16 points for the Gamecocks and freshman post player Demetrius Henry chipped in a career-high 14 points and six rebounds. Henry's previous season-best was nine points.
Tymell Murphy scored a game-high 22 points for Florida International (6-3). Marco Porcher Jimenez added 15 points, Rakeem Buckles chipped in with 11 and Dennis Mavin contributed 10.
Despite large hole early, Gamecocks show no quit in lopsided loss…