Saturday, February 13, 2010

Georgia A Must Win For USC Post Season Hopes

The Gamecocks (14-9, 5-4) have been able to master the home court advantage with an 11-2 home stand, but they are 3-7 away from the favorable Colonial Life Arena. When Darrin Horn takes his team into Stegemen Coliseum this afternoon, he will be trying to win his second straight game in Athens, following a 65-51 win last season.  Overall the Gamecocks are 15-27 in Athens, 1-0 under Horn.  The Georgia Bulldogs (10-12, 2-7) lost a one point thriller to South Carolina two weeks ago and should be poised for revenge.  However, USC may have more motivation as this game starts a two week stretch where South Carolina will play the Dawgs, Arkansas and Kentucky on the road with only one contest at home following the trip to Fayetteville, against Tennessee.  Only 7 regular season games remaining, South Carolina will need at least 5 additional wins to get the magic number 10, SEC wins to have a shot at the NCAA postseason.  The reduced field of the NIT would seemingly require an 8-8 conference record to get a possible bid in the concession post-season field.  While Athens and Fayetteville are tough places to play, Rupp Arena and Vanderbilt are going to be even harder venues to get a win.

The best scenario for the young men from South Carolina is to stay focused, beat Georgia and Arkansas, hold serve and edge Tennessee at home, play hard as possible in Lexington, surprise Mississippi State at home with solid post play, outplay and manhandle Alabama on their trip to Horn's House and play smart and physical against the Commodores in Nashville.  This could be the formula for a 10-6 SEC record, placing the team on the NCAA bubble, a 9-7 giving them an assured trip to the NIT, 8-8 would be a nervous "Selection Sunday" and anything else would be the ultimate disappointing season.  A season that was filled with major upsets, exciting plays, buzzer beater finishes and coaching chess matches can only be properly chronicled with a post season appearance.

A loss to Georgia in Athens could start the spoiling touch on and an easily perishable season.   Like South Carolina, Georgia is most comfortable at home sporting a 9-3 home record and 1-9 away from Athens.  Both teams were upset by Wofford early this season, but both have recorded major upsets, South Carolina over Kentucky and Georgia over Vanderbilt.  Throw the records out and remember January 30, when USC came from behind in the second half to steal a victory from the Dawgs in Columbia and protect home court.  Stars Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Company will have to play well against Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Associates to continue this quest for a NCAA berth.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Home Court Advantage To USC 77-71 Over Gators

Game Stats            Post Game Video

South Carolina Darrin Horn applauded the fans at the end of the game, as his now recognized 6th man helped the head coach inspire a second half manhandling of the Florida Gators (17-7, 6-4).  After trailing by 4 points, 35-31, the Gamecocks came out with energy and defensive intensity.  The result was a 46-36 second half advantage to South Carolina (14-9, 5-4) and a 77-71 SEC victory.  At the half the team was challenged to compete harder and just after the half Brandis Raley-Ross was threatened to shoot or suffer the consequences.  Raley-Ross with 3 points at the half, finished with 20 points to go along with his 2 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals.  Devan Downey was just Devan, shooting and scooping to 24 points (4 steals, 2 assists and 4 rebounds).

Being at home allowed the energy of the crowd to support a poor shooting night by the Gamecocks, 38.2%, as they out hustled the Gators who shot 56% for the game, 68% in the first half.  The 3-point shot caused increased Garnet Army cheers that seemed to rattle the Gators at times during the middle of the second half as the host team took control of the game.  South Carolina collected 20 points off 20 Florida turnovers, while allowing only 8 points on just 6 turnovers.  The Gamecocks were outscored 22-8 in the paint, were outscored 10-2 on fast breaks, but the turnovers created by an aggressive defense gave the Gamecocks 18 more shots than the Gators (68-50) and the aggressive penetration offense also allowed the Cocks to get to the free throw line 24 times, converting on 19 (79.2%), while Billy Donovan's club was only 10-23 (43.5%).  South Carolina's version of post utilization found Sam Muldrow working the baseline short corners and high post to find 7-13 shooting for 16 points and 8 rebounds.  Erving Walker had a solid night for Florida with 20 points.  Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons had a double-double, 11pts/15rebs and 13pts/11/rebs, respectively.  But the scoring combination of Downey, Raley-Ross and Muldrow (60 points), primarily in the second half, was too much for the Gators when you add the hostile crowd, missed free throws and turnovers.  The unsung hero for the Gamecocks would be Lakeem Jackson, who in contruction worker style piled up 6 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals, giving him a direct hand in 15 Carolina points.  His third assist to Ramon Galloway for the 3, placed USC in front for good 56-53 with just over 6 minutes to play.  After missing its first 10 3-point shots the Gamecocks went 6-12 down the stretch to hold of the Gators.

The victory continues to protect the house that Horn has renovated with excitement, energy and a young winning tradition.  In the Colonial Life Arena South Carolina is 10-2 this season and 27-5 overall under Coach Horn.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What Went Wrong In Tennessee For USC Men's Basketball?

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!!