I probably should begin this post on a positive note. After all, the Gamecocks won. And won convincingly. They played smothering defense, both under the rim and full-court - once even forcing Southeast Louisiana into a rare 10 second back-court violation. The Cocks also forced the Lions into 25 turnovers and were successful in drawing charges over and over against SELA.
The Gamecocks also owned the glass through most of the game- pulling down 30 rebounds, including 14 offensive boards (in fairness, SELA had 28 total rebounds and 10 offensive boards, but (a) they are a good rebounding club to begin with and (b) most of those were in the second half when the game was no longer in doubt).
As Coach Horn said, rebounding and strong defense were "focus goals" - so we should be happy with that. But I still cannot escape my unease about the problem areas we do not seem to be fixing.
First and foremost, is poor shooting. Last night it was 20 for 55 from the floor (36.4%) and 6-18 (33.3%) from three point range. We seem to do well on rollers and short jumpers, but we constantly force poor three-pointers, or - more puzzling - miss wide open shots from the arc. At the beginning of the second half, we hit about three tres in a row - a sign of progress you might ask? An opportunity to force SELA to pay more attention to perimeter defense, so we can feed the ball inside to our post men? Nope - neither. We went back to form - launching long clangers from the arc. Even worse, we cannot seem to buy an offensive put-back when we need it. Possession after possession you would see a Gamecock grab a strong offensive rebound, then flail on what would look like an easy lay-in or jumper. It's really inexplicable. It's like we're leaving 20 points on the floor - literally - every game. We're 11th in the SEC in scoring percentage for a reason.
Second, is the mystifying way we we never seem to get transition buckets. For a team that plays such stout D and prides itself on elongating the floor, we never seem to get two-on-ones or three-on-ones. Is it inexperienced guard play? Do we lack a killer instinct? Why does it seem like our opponents always get numbers? I cannot figure it out.
Third, we really need to be developing Carlton Geathers. Besides Malik Cooke, he is the only guy with the big body to play the low post and he seems clutch at the stripe. But he only got 11 minutes last night. Cooke is an excellent F, but you don't see many teams feeling it necessary to doubleteam him, either. We have to be able to get big when SEC play starts, and I don't see this happening.
Sorry to be so negative. There are definite bright spots. Though he didn't have a strong game last night (1-7 in 21 minutes, 1 assist, 2 rebounds, 2 points), we can see from the Ohio State game Bruce Ellington is regaining his form as a team leader and play creator. Anthony Gill continues to show flashes of brilliance - a slashing drive to the bucket early in the second half was a portent of things to come. Last night's SportsSouth color commentator Mike Gminski was highlighting Gill's upside and good play all night, and correctly pointed out that Gill was learning to avoid early foul trouble so he could play more assertive defense in the late first and second halves. High praise indeed from a guy like Gminski. Gill had 14 points. So did Malik Cooke who continues to be the workhorse of the team. Damien Leonard has a nice game with 8 points and 3-6 from the floor in 14 minutes. That being said, it seemed like Damontre Harris and R.J. Slawson would disappear when it came time to shoot - both had more boards than points. That has to change (see point number 1 above).
Not to be a broken record, but the Athletic Department and Coach Horn must do something to drive up attendance. It's a shame that we can't get 10,000 fans in the seats to watch an exciting, young USC team win, lose or draw - but we're not. I know it's Christmas time, but this is more than just about students. Something has to be done about attendance immediately.