I'm a bit late to this party, but I want to comment briefly on last night's debacle in Starkville. As you probably know by now, Carolina lost an ugly game to Mississippi St., 56-54. The Gamecocks looked like they had this one wrapped up late in the contest, but a series of turnovers allowed Mississippi St. some easy scores and, ultimately, the win.
Turnovers made the difference in this game, without a doubt. The Gamecocks had a whopping 24 of them. Bruce Ellington had nine by himself; it was clear to see that he was rusty, and in hindsight, we probably should have given Brenton Williams more of his minutes. We often seemed at an utter loss to move the ball around against MSU's 1-3-1 zone. As in some prior games, many of these turnovers were real head-scratchers, plays where the guys more or less just lost control of the ball or passed it straight to the opposition. At the end of the day, as Chicken Hoops points out, we turned the ball over on 35% of our offensive possessions. We're lucky it wasn't worse than it was.
Of course, part of the reason it wasn't is because MSU is a very bad team. For those of you who don't follow hoops closely, this isn't the MSU of old. Rick Stansbury is gone, as are many of the talented players of the last few years. In is inexperienced coach Rick Ray, who leads a similarly inexperienced, low-grade group of players. This team is awful on offense, and probably would have blown us out if it could have hit a few of its threes--it went 0-10 from downtown. It's got losses to teams like Alabama A&M and Troy. That's the only reason this game was close, that MSU is so bad.
Losing to these guys, even away, should be sobering for us. With a 10-3 record going into conference play and the team seeming to improve, I was optimistic that we might get off to a good start with a win in Starkville, and then one at home over Auburn. Now, we're 0-1 in conference, and things aren't going to get any easier, with Auburn improving by the game. If this team is going to make the NIT or the CBI, it's going to have to improve on turnovers. We're doing some things well. With Brian Richardson coming into his own, we're becoming a solid offensive team. We're decent on defense when we're not giving up easy baskets off turnovers. But the turnovers are just a killer right now. Maybe Bruce will get better as he gets back into the swing of things. Maybe Martin will work his magic. But don't be surprised if this team loses a lot of games over the next few weeks.