It's time to celebrate, Carolina fans! This afternoon the Gamecocks wrapped up an impressive overtime victory over No. 24 / 22 Vanderbilt. The evening's star was Sam Muldrow, who registered the second triple-double in Carolina history with his 16 point, 14 rebounds, and an astounding 10 blocks. Bruce Ellington added 22 points, much of it on some clutch shooting at the end of regulation. John Jenkins led the 'Dores with 27.
Midway through the second half, this one looked like it was going to be all Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks had kept it somewhat close to that point, but they had never seriously challenged for the lead since the opening minutes and Vanderbilt was starting to pull away. At this point, though, Carolina turned on the jets and never looked back. We quickly closed the deficit and, after a flurry of Ellington threes over the final minutes that included the final tying shot, forced overtime. Muldrow then dominated the extra period as Carolina pulled away.
Carolina fans can only hope that this game was a coming-of-age moment for our young team. Vanderbilt is one of the better teams in the SEC. The 'Dores have a complete roster featuring talented guards and an imposing front line. They're the real deal. If we can consistently play well enough to beat teams of Vandy's caliber, we can make some noise this year. The key is building on what we did this afternoon.
- The stats say it all, but it's worth stressing that the key to this win was Muldrow. In games where Muldrow has suffered from foul trouble or been otherwise ineffective, Carolina has been ravaged by opposing big men. When Muldrow is playing well, though, Carolina is capable of handling teams with talented post players. Our rebounding, in particular, is exponentially better when he's dominating the boards. We can push for a post-season berth if we can continue to get these kinds of performances out of him. Consistency has long been the issue with Muldrow, though, so a lot remains to be seen with him. I'm also concerned that opposing teams are increasingly going to see that we can't win without him playing lots of minutes and will attempt to attack him and force him into foul trouble.
- Amid all the talk about Muldrow and Ellington, we need to remember the contribution that Lakeem Jackson is making to this team. He's becoming the solid 10 ppg guy we expected when we signed him and is doing a good job on defense. He's also one of the more steady players on a team that could use some consistency.
- Some of the problems that plagued us throughout the early portion of the season reared their heads again. Ellington chucked up a lot of bricks early in the game, and, along with Muldrow's play, whether or not Ellington is effectively looking for the right shot goes a long way towards winning games. Even some of the shots he made weren't exactly what I'd call wisely chosen shots. He came through in the end, though, and we overall seem to be playing slightly more disciplined basketball than we were during non-con play. That's promising.
That's a wrap on this one. The first SEC Hoops Power Poll will be going up over the next couple of days, and then it's on to Tuscaloosa for a little revenge against Anthony Grant's Alabama Crimson Tide, who served Carolina the two losses that likely kept us out of the NIT last year. Victory there would be sweet, indeed.