After notching its first SEC win over the Alabama Crimson Tide this past Wednesday, South Carolina hits the road this weekend to take on Ole Miss in Oxford's Tad Smith Coliseum. The game will provide a good test as to whether the Gamecocks are ready to turn the season around or if their win over 'Bama was a fluke.
Ole Miss has been, quite likely, the SEC's most unpredictable team over the course of the season. The Rebels roared to a strong record early in the season, only to burn out towards the end of the OOC slate with losses to Southern Miss., Middle Tennessee, and Dayton. They didn't look much better to open SEC play, starting with a blowout loss in Baton Rouge and a tight loss at Auburn a week later. Since then, though, they've had a renaissance of sorts, upsetting rival Mississippi State, beating Georgia, and coming up just short against Florida. They come into this game against Carolina, despite their intermittent struggles, with an RPI of 41--which places them on the cusp of being NCAA-worthy. This is all to say that if the " good Ole>RPI of 41--which places them on the cusp of being NCAA-worthy. This is all to say that if the "good Ole Miss" shows up, they'll be a tough out for Carolina.
The Rebels' strengths include strong rebounding, which reflects good front line play from Terrance Henry and former Gamecock Murphy Holloway. The Rebels also use their aggressive play to get to the line frequently. Based on what we saw Wednesday against Alabama, I believe the Gamecocks can compete with Ole Miss on the glass. What I worry is that Carolina will struggle against Ole Miss in the other regard, as well as on offense in general. Despite the progress shown against 'Bama, the Carolina offense still left much to be desired. We shot a poor percentage from the field, and we only made it to the line nine times. Those numbers need to improve if we're going to compete in this game, because if they don't, it's going to be hard to outscore the Rebels on their home court.
How can the Gamecocks do that? I'd really like to see us attack the basket more with our guards. Bruce Ellington is respectable while attacking the basket, but it seems like Damien Leonard, Brenton Williams, and Brian Richardson do nothing but jack up threes. That's all well and good when one of them has a hot hand, but that hasn't happened much lately. Leonard, in fact, was 2-11 Wednesday night--and 2-10 from downtown. That's not good. At some point, he needs to decide it's not his day and try to find other ways to contribute offensively. That, or Horn needs to put in someone like Lakeem Jackson who is more likely to be able to score around the basket, as well as being able to contribute more defensively. In fact, I've been a little surprised at how little playing time Jackson has been getting lately. Obviously, he's a somewhat limited player due to his poor shooting abilities, but if none of the new guys can contribute points, I think we should get Jackson back in there. Anything would be better than seeing us go 5-31 from beyond the arc again, right? Whether the Gamecocks can correct this set of issues should go a long way tomorrow night.