South Carolina defeated Presbyterian by a relatively comfortable margin this afternoon. The final score was 76-60. This wasn't by any means a blowout, as Presby played hard and occasionally looked poised to make things interesting. However, the Gamecocks built a solid lead fairly early in the game, and they never let the Blue Hose get too close after that point. Stand-out performers included Brian Richardson with 16 points and Damien Leonard with 13 points and six boards.
I was able to watch the second half of this game, and, from what I saw, I would say it was an all-around positive performance by Carolina. First of all, Carolina was short-handed in this one; LaShay Page was out due to academic ineligibility, Michael Carrera due to a minor hip injury, and Bruce Ellington because he's with the football team. Those are three impact players for Carolina, so it's impressive that we won comfortably without them.
The second thing I really liked about this game was the lack of turnovers. We only committed eight in the game, which is the best we've done this year. I felt like Carolina did a good job of moving the ball around and working for good shots without putting the ball in danger. There were very few of the kinds of lazy turnovers that have hurt us in prior games. Granted, Presby wasn't exactly giving us 40 minutes of hell out there, but we had been having problems with turnovers regardless of the defensive quality of our opponents. The effort we put in for good shots paid off, too, as we got a lot of good looks and knocked down some shots. Carolina was an impressive 43.8% from beyond the arc.
Part of the offensive success owed to solid play from Richardson and Leonard. Both looked about as good as I've seen them, particularly Leonard, who has been a disappointment so far this year. He not only contributed offensively but also did a good job working the boards. He played more physically and smartly than I've seen him play. The performances of these two players made not having Page seem like a non-factor. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised to see Martin continue giving these two close looks if and when Page returns to action. They looked really good today.
I wouldn't say that not having Ellington or Carrera seemed like a non-factor, though. Carrera's absence was particularly evident during stretches in which Lakeem Jackson was on the bench with foul trouble. Without Jackson, we had very little production in the post. R.J. Slawson continued to be something of a non-factor. Not having Carrera or Jackson for significant portions of the season would really hurt this team. We're just too shallow down low to afford it. As for Ellington, I was somewhat happier with the play of Eric Smith in this game, given the lack of turnovers, but he still wasn't really a huge difference-maker. A few nice assists here and there, but not the impact that Ellington can have.
All in all, though, it was a good game for Carolina. This team is doing OK and is getting better. If we beat SC State next weekend, we'll enter SEC play at 10-3. Last year, despite having a more talented roster, we were 8-6 at that point. An NIT run isn't at all out of the question for this team. Carolina basketball has been in worse shape, and things will continue getting better as Frank Martin keeps working his recruiting magic.