The South Carolina Men's Basketball program went into Knoxville Saturday afternoon feeling really good about their chances to step over the hump of a Bruce Pearl Tennessee Volunteers team that has won 8 straight contest against the Cocks. Fresh off the an impressive win against then #1 Kentucky and a solid "Come-from-behind" victory over Georgia at home, no to mention the nail-bitting buzzer beater loss to Florida in Gainesville.
The flamboyant Coach Pearl was operating with his best player dismissed, three other suspended players just reinstated. USC Head Coach Darrin Horn has a diminishing bench with two missing starters, Dominique Archie (Knee Surgery) and Mike Holmes (Dismissed) off the team prior to SEC conference schedule. While the Vols are nationally ranked they are not big with the reduced lineup, but they are extremely athletic. South Carolina is also athletic, but does not necessarily shoot the ball well.
Following a slow start, which found South Carolina extremely cold, Tennessee was moving the ball extremely well while South Carolina was struggling to find anyone who could score, including Devan Downey, the SEC conference leading scorer. A cold night for Downey 5-20 (20%) from the field and the rout was set. The rout was guaranteed when the remaining 9 players were 11-38 (28.9%) or an average of 4 shots per player for the game. The result a 26 point Vol win 79-53. As a team, South Carolina shot 28 3-point shots or 48.2% of the overall team shots, making only 7 for the game. Tennessee committed its defense to Downey and allowed the remaining USC team to shoot which generated 34 Tennessee defensive rebounds. Poor defensive energy by the Cocks allowed 27-59 (45.8%) shooting by the Vols, 40 points in the paint compared to 14 close points for the Gamecocks. The lack of defensive effort allowed 22 fast break points for the host team and 16 points off turnovers.
Now lets give credit where credit is due, 6'9" Wayne Chism was unstoppable with 30 points on 11-17 shooting and Vols point guard Bobby Maze had only one turnover and was never stopped in the back court allowing Tennessee get to into soft positions on the floor and move the ball without little challenge from the South Carolina squad.
To sum it up overall, South Carolina perhaps played its worse game under Coach Horn, but this was a game waiting to happen as the team has become more enthused with the transition and scoring accomplishments that a game that has been designed for 5 players at any one time, has been reduced to a divisive 1 and 4 product. No post game, no mid-range game, inconsistent long range shooting and fast break points only following successful defensive series, which have began to fade following the Florida game. Many would say Devan still generated 26 points, thanks to 13-14 from the charity stripe, but the effort to get to that aspect of the scoring, led to little team involvement. Now without the "high risk for high reward" defense, no other offense can be found. Defense is important, but scoring is the name of the game. Defense can be taught through effort and fundamentals, offensive becomes the biggest challenge because you must first arrive with a skill or ability to score more often than not.
So what went wrong? EVERYTHING!!