Friday, November 20, 2009

La Salle Too Tall, But USC Was Too Deep In 78-68 Win

With a starting lineup with no player smaller than 6'5" and all others 6'6", 6'7" 6'8" and 6'10", La Salle University seemed geared to create problems for the slightly smaller USC Gamecocks.  Along the way, someone forgot to tell Head Coach Darrin Horn that size matters.  Early in the contest, it appeared that the size was a problem for the Gamecocks, playing in the late game of the Charleston Classic, hosted by the College of Charleston.  Scoring only 11 points in the first 10 minutes and trailing by eight points at 11-19, the Cocks were challenged in the paint by 6'10" Aaric Murray who recorded 4 first half blocked shots.  Offensive rebounding and good shot selection allowed the Explorers, Coached by Dr. John Gianini, to maintain a 22-30 advantage at the 5:00 mark of the first half.  It was at this point that Coach Horn's bench rotations, pressure defense and inspired glass aggression by the USC post ignited a 16-6 run and a 2 point half time lead, at 38-36.  The Gamecocks would never trail again.  Coach Horn's halftime speech charged a 20-5 run to start the second half and a 17 point lead that would not get any closer than 12 until the final token jump shot by T.T. Carey with 26 seconds to go, once Horn had cleared the bench at the 1:57 mark.

What changed for the smaller USC squad or the taller La Salle unit?  Depth, good substitution match-ups, energy and aggressive defense by South Carolina.  Not to mention that the early blocked shots by Murray did little to intimidate the USC post and swing players who constantly attacked the glass.  With USC shooting only 4-14 (28.6%) from long range, it was clear that this game would be won in the paint and Horn made sure that a good practice week for Austin Steed and an ever improving outing by Johndre Jefferson helped Mike Holmes, who scored most of his 15 points in powerful moves around the basket, and Dominique Archie who led USC with 17 points, dominate 60% of the basketball game.  Steed's first half effort helped stabilized the post advantage for the Gamecocks, while Brandis Raley-Ross, 16 points on the night, was the only Gamecock who could consistently find the range from downtown going 4-6 from 3-point range, hitting the only 3-pointers for the Cocks all night.  Even with nearly 52% shooting in the first half the La Salle team playing as the visitors could not hold off the powerful run and eventual control of the game by the Gamecocks.  The effective play of the nine primary rotation players produced difficulty for the Explorers to find good shot opportunities consistently and the result  44.4% shooting in the second half, with USC shooting 56.7% over the same period with many baskets coming on transition points created by turnovers and aggressive transition.

Rodney Green led La Salle with 23 points, while fan favorite Devan Downey rounded out the USC double digit scoring with 10 points.  The 78-68 victory was the third straight double digit win for the Gamecocks (3-0) in a many outings.

Tonight the Gamecocks will now play the Bulls of South Florida, who edges out Davidson earlier in the evening 68-65.

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