Oregon’s Jermaine Couisnard Scores 40 Against Former Team

The South Carolina Gamecocks went into Thursday’s opening round of the NCAA Tournament as one of the rare higher-seeded teams that were also the underdog. South Carolina was the No. 6 seed, hailing from the basketball-rich Southeast Conference. Oregon, the No. 11 seed, was the final champion of the Pac-12 before it is put in the dustbin of history.

It turns out the Ducks were the right pick, because Jermaine Couisnard was the right man for the moment.

The Long and Winding Road to Oregon

From the Indiana side of East Chicago, Jermaine Cousinard was a highly recruited guard that ended up choosing to play at South Carolina. Louisville would have been his second choice.

He was an SEC All-Freshman selection, and for three happy seasons, he played in Columbia, even as the Gamecocks missed the tournament every year. But because they kept missing the tournament, they eventually fired their coach, Frank Martin, at the end of the 2021-22 season. Couisnard wasn’t good with losing his coach, so he chose a new school about as far away as possible in Eugene, Oregon.

“Look at the distance,” said Couisnard. “Super far. Crazy.”

The All-Pac-12 selection this season and All-Pac-12 Tournament awardee is also now playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his career. And it just so happened that for his first game, he faced off with his old friends in South Carolina.

Couisnard Explodes for 40

Cousinard is not a stranger to big games. Earlier this season, he scored 39 points in a game at Arizona. He had 27 points and four steals in a win at home over Washington. A year ago, he scored 27 in beating the Wildcats at home.

But Thursday’s 40-point outburst was a new high for him, and new heights for an Oregon team that wasn’t even supposed to make the tournament. Couisnard had 40 points on 14-of-22 shooting, including 5-of-9 from the 3-point line. It was the most points scored by an Oregon player in the NCAA Tournament, and the most from a Pac-12 player since UCLA’s Bill Walton scored 44 in the 1973 national championship game.

And for Oregon, one of those teams that “stole” a spot in the tournament, it is now in the second round to play the No. 3 seed Creighton Bluejays.

Oregon lost four players to season-ending injuries this season, and in early March, they were limping into the Pac-12 Tournament with very little hope of playing past an inevitable loss. But then Couisnard scored 20 points in a semifinal win over Arizona, had 14 points and eight assists in the Pac-12 championship win against Colorado, and now had his career moment against his former team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

“It was fun, man,” Cousinard said. “Those guys kind of made me. I grew a lot. I learned a lot when I was there. So I appreciate those guys more than anything.”

Oregon is a 5-point underdog for Saturday’s game against Creighton.

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