Friday, February 26, 2010

Cocks Fight Hard But Come Up Short

Game Stats

When South Carolina (14-13, 5-8) traveled to Lexington, Ky to take on the Wildcats, everyone had predicted a blowout, a revenge beat down for the lone loss on the Kentucky (27-1, 12-1) record.  While the 82-61 victory by John Calipari's team would appear to be a blowout, it was anything but that.  Fans don't like to talk about morale victories and this was not one, but the USC Basketball Team played extremely hard and competed with the team most believe will win the national championship.  A team with an estimated 4-5 future NBA players.

After jumping out to a 11-2 lead in the first two and a half minutes, Kentucky and its' fans could smell an embarrassing route of the visiting team.  But a nice 7-2 run over the next two minutes narrowed the lead to 13-9 and the scrappy competitive game was on.  For the rest of the game, Kentucky, led by John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson could not gain more than an 8 point lead for the next ten minutes.  In the final five minutes of the half, the Wildcat size and strength began to take over.  With Kentucky shooting poorly from the outside (3-11 from 3-Pt range) they began to pound the glass and penetrate to grind points in closing out the first half.  After establishing a 14 point lead at the 1:31 mark, no one could score until SEC scoring leader Devan Downey scored his 9th point on a long 30-foot shot to end the first half with Kentucky leading 37-26.  In the second half Devan would add 17 more points shooting 9-25 and 3-9 from the arc.

The tenacity and competitive spirit of USC Head Coach Darrin Horn and Downey would display itself again in the second half, when Kentucky jumped out to a 16 point lead just under two minutes into the half.  But over the next nine minutes the Gamecocks would get as close as 6 points before the size, speed and talent of Kentucky would take advantage in the post and in transition, and with 9:18 to go USC would watch its efforts become overshadowed by the gradual growth of a small double digit lead between 10-15 points over that period.  With just under three minutes and the score 69-59 Kentucky, Patterson, who finished with a team high 23 points, to go with his 8 rebounds, grabbed an offensive rebound and dunked to start the run for the final margin of victory.

USC has a few positives to take from this loss, forcing John Wall into 6 turnovers, Wall was held to 12 points on 4-15 shooting, scoring on 10 assisted plays, after averaging less than 10 assists during SEC play and holding Kentucky to only 10 fast break points.  Overall, the Gamecocks did not back down, nor did they allow various runs during most of the game to discourage their level of effort against a superior ball club.  Concerns will obviously be noted in the post scoring where Kentucky scored 56 of its' total 82 points in the paint.  South Carolina was able to generate 30 of its' 61 points in the paint on penetration and passing, along with stick backs from offensive rebounds.  The Wildcats had a decisive advantage at the free throw line due to post play, going 15-20 from the line and the Gamecocks were 5-7, with Downey going 5-5 from the charity stripe.  No bench scoring for the Gamecocks was obviously disappointing to Coach Horn.

Lakeem Jackson took two ill-advised shots from the perimeter, but otherwise was near perfect scoring aggressively on 8-11 shooting for 16 points (4 rebs, 3 stls, 2 asts & 1 blk), while Sam Muldrow was effective earlier in the game and finished with 10 points (5-11), 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.
It is now South Carolina's turn to attempt a home court beat down, returning home to play Mississippi State at the Colonial Life Arena, where the Gamecocks have played their best basketball all year, winning 11 of its total 14 victories in this arena.

Monday, February 22, 2010

USC Signee Falls Short In Playoffs To Lexington

Full Game Story        Playoff Bracket

In Devan Downey-like fashion, South Carolina 5'10" signee Bruce Ellington of Berkeley (14-11) single handily shot his team into contention against highly ranked Lexington (23-5) as he scored 25 second half points to finish with 33, as Lexington needed clutch free throw shooting from Sophomore sensation Shaq Roland, who sank two free throws with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime, 72-72 .

The overtime became the "Shaq Roland Show" as Lexington turned the game into a rout with a 15-0 run to open the overtime.  Roland finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists.  But Roland was not alone as Lexington received a double-double from Adrian Wigfall (18pts/10rebs) and David Burns scored 23 points for the Wildcats coached by Bailey Harris, who has 14 twenty-win seasons in 23 years, two 4A state championship in four trips to the season finale. 

South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn and staff were on hand at the Wildcat gymnasium to watch his future point guard Ellington, along with a few USC players.  Ellington was impressive down the stretch, but the opposing team effort, a pesky zone and depth was so familiar to his future coach who has had to endure similar concerns.  Hopefully Ellington will have more help by the time he transforms his skill sets to the SEC level at South Carolina.

Ellington did get double digit scoring assistance from R.J. Robinson 12 pts., Marcus Wiggs 11pts., and D.J. Harrison 11pts.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Free Throws Solve Home Court Disadvantage For Vols

Game Stats       Highlights     Post-Game Interview

The game was played in Colonial Life Arena, a definite advantage for the Gamecocks on most game days, but for Tennessee (20-6, 8-4) a 63-55 winner over South Carolina (14-12, 5-7) Saturday, it was just a matter of taking advantage of what was given to them.  After trailing or playing close for 33 minutes of the ball game, the Vols continued to grind out plays, loose balls and opportunities in the middle of the lane to score or get to the free throw line, where they outscored the home team by 9 points in an 8-point game.  In a game of 13 lead changes, 6 ties and a 10-19 turnover advantage for the host squad, one would think this was a formula for a home court victory.  But in the end it would be the repeat of the decisive free throw advantage that teams have shown in each of the three consecutive losses by the Gamecocks that would make the actual difference, in lieu of poor shooting.

The game overall was not pretty for either team or its stars.  Devan Downey was well under his 23 point average with 15 points on 4-18 shooting and Wayne Chism fell below his 17 point conference average with 11 points on 4-6 shooting.  #20 Tennessee started the game with 8 turnovers in the first 8 minutes of play.  South Carolina on the other hand rarely converted those turnovers in to points and could only establish a 2 point lead 11-9 by the second media timeout.  By halftime the Gamecocks held a 28-24 lead with 8 points off turnovers and 7 points on second chance opportunities, shooting only 33% (11-33 and 4-14 from 3-pt).  The Vols shot 45% (9-20, 2-7) for the same ugly period but managed to shoot 4-8 from the charity stripe versus South Carolina 2-4, to stay close with all the turnovers.

In the second half it was more of the same, with South Carolina continuing to concentrate on the perimeter and Tennessee grinding to push the ball in the paint and take only open perimeter shots, however the results began to shift late in the half as the Gamecocks were able to hold the lead or stay within 3 points for nearly 13 minutes, before the Vols began to take over.  Tennessee Head Coach Bruce Pearl was able to counter the game plan of USC Head Coach Darrin Horn's aggressive match-up zone, with running offensive sets that constantly flashed players to the middle of the lane with quick feeds to attack the zone from the middle to score or interior pass to the blocks.  This periodically left Bobby Maze open to hit a few key jump shots to establish some balance in a game where both teams shot poorly from the perimeter.  The difference?  The Vols used the paint in the second half to shoot 52.4% (11-21, 2-4), while the Cocks continued to struggle at 30% (9-30, 1-12).  The Vols were 15-24 from the free throw line during the final period, getting there by concentrating on the inside, shooting only 4 long range shots.  The Gamecocks were fouled less often obviously taking 12 long range perimeter shots and was 8-11 (72%) from the charity stripe in the second half.

Tennessee really only led in three key statistical areas, "shooting percentage" 48.8% versus 31.7%, "points in the paint" 32-22 and "assists" 13-3.  South Carolina led in "free throw shooting percentage" 66.7% against 59.4%, "offensive rebounds" 13-10, "second chance points" 12-9.  With a cold perimeter afternoon, the home team had become the disadvantaged squad as the odds of percentages in basketball took over, the high percentage shot either went in or generated foul shot opportunities for Tennessee and the low percentage shot failed to fall for South Carolina and rarely did they get to the foul line.   

The Garnet Army was again alive and well represented, but in the end they could not will their basketball heroes to victory, as Tennessee countered a sloppy game with grinding and getting to the free stripe twice as many times as the host team.  South Carolina will only wonder what could have been if the free throw percentage advantage could have been matched with equal trips to the line.  Only three South Carolina players even shot free throws, Downey, Raley-Ross and Austin Steed (1-2). 

The free throw difference, along with a 20-3 Tennessee bench scoring difference assisted the Vols in grinding out a late 17-3 run that virtually rendered the game a Tennessee victory.

Brandis Raley-Ross continued his scoring support and balanced play, as the senior guard scored a team high 16 points on 5-10 shooting (2-6 from 3 and 4-7 from the line).