In an ESPN2 game, South Carolina fell in Gainesville last night, 74-66. Florida's Kenny Boynton was the star with 24 points; his teammate Bradley Beal had a double-double. Bruce Ellington led Carolina with 15, while Damontre Harris had an impressive 12 points, nine boards, and six blocks.
Not to be a sunshine pumper or someone to find joy in moral victories, but I thought the team played quite well last night. Florida is a good team--they'll be in the top 10 if they win a home date with Vandy tomorrow. After digging an early hole, the Gamecocks settled in and scrapped with the Gators on their home court. The performance was much more impressive than the lackluster performance against the Gators in Columbia. We were right there with them outside of the first few minutes, and really, the Gators were very fortunate to get just about every loose ball during their opening run. To me, it continued to show that this team has taken a step forward since the debacle at Auburn. In fact, even though it was a loss, I thought this was the best we've played since conference competition began. It was a performance the Gamecocks can build off of if they can maintain their focus after all the losses.
The key to the Gamecocks' improved play was a more intelligent offensive approach. After weeks of feeling like we've been playing to obvious weaknesses and giving underperforming players too large of a role, I thought Darrin Horn's strategy was much sounder in this game. The three players who have been performing as of late are Bruce Ellington, Damontre Harris, and Malik Cooke, and those were the guys who took the lion's share of the shots last night. Damien Leonard and Brian Richardson played a back-seat role; I think that's for the best. For now, they should see a few minutes just so we can get a look and see if either is on, but until one of them establishes a record of consistency, neither should be taking 10 shots per game unless he's clearly hot. I will say that I was a bit disappointed that Brenton Williams didn't play better. I was hoping to see him get more minutes, and he did, which shows that Horn is paying attention, but Williams didn't take advantage and lock down the starting two-guard spot.
Needless to say, a win against Kentucky tomorrow is unlikely. However, if we play like we did yesterday and do better on the loose balls / boards and get better play from Williams, I could see us making it interesting. Never say never.