I'm a little late reviewing this game because I was traveling on the 30th, settling back in at home and partying on the 31st, and watching the Outback Bowl yesterday. Although Devan Downey turned in an epic 37 point performance for the Gamecocks, Clemson (AP #20, ESPN/USAT #16) defeated the Gamecocks in Colonial Life Arena by a score of 98-87. The Gamecocks built an early double-digit lead, but Clemson's hot shooting allowed the Tigers to build a solid lead by halftime that they would not relinquish. We did manage to cut the lead a few times in the second half, but to no avail. Clemson's Terrence Oglesby led the Tigers with 25 point. While I hate to say it, we should give the Tigers and Oliver Purnell credit; they've got a great hoops team up there in the Upstate. Duke and UNC need to watch their backs.
Two things seem clear to me after this game. First of all, we're a good bit better than last year and are good enough to play with ranked teams like Clemson when we're at the top of our game, but we're not good enough to outlast them if they bring their A-game. The Tigers did that Tuesday, shooting 55% from the field, 45% from beyond the arc, and 80% from the line. Luckily for us, Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky might not always shoot that well. Moreover, Clemson might very well be better than any team in the SEC, and if that's the case, what we saw Tuesday was a team that's very capable of winning lots of games in the SEC. The second thing I take away from this game is that, as expected, depth and size in the post will be a problem for this team. Dominique Archie only played 19 minutes due to foul trouble, and his absence was noticeable. This will continue to be a problem for us this year.
The Gamecocks will get another chance to beat a ranked opponent tonight when they travel to Waco to take on the Baylor Bears. While I'm keeping my fingers crossed, this will likely be another brutally difficult game for us. Unlike last year, however, Coach Horn and his team have me believing that we will win a couple of these big games this year. We may not make the NCAAs, but this program is headed in the right direction and will assuage the pain we're all feeling due to the football team's performance.