South Carolina had a disappointing loss this afternoon, falling to Vandy 58-51. Vandy led for most of the game. It never quite broke away, though, and Carolina made things interesting in the last few minutes, at one point bringing the game within a score. We didn't complete the comeback, though, and Vandy salted the game away from the line in the final seconds. Brenton Williams led all scorers with 16, while Lakeem Jackson had 10 rebounds. Michael Carrera came close to a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds, but he also committed some costly rookie errors late in the game.
This loss was all about lack of offense for Carolina. Credit has to go to Vandy's man-to-man defense, which was magnificent. Vandy gave up very few easy buckets. The 'Dores did a good job of covering the perimeter, and when the Gamecocks drove into the lane, Vandy closed in quickly while also doing a good job of guarding the kick-out man. I was very impressed with their defensive effort. That said, Carolina deserves some of the blame, too. While open shots were hard to come by, we missed most of the ones we had, and our front court was unable to put the ball in the hole when it got opportunities close to the basket.
Defensively, I didn't think that Carolina played poorly, but it did get fooled a few times by Vandy's Princeton-style back-door passing game. More generally, while holding a team to 58 points seems nice at first blush, you have to remember that many of our offensive possessions went deep into the shot clock. On the one hand, our patience shortened the game and may have played a role in keeping it close, but, at the end of the day, the score reflects that this game was thoroughly dictated by Vandy's defensive execution. Also, while we had more offensive boards than Vandy, the 'Dores had some really key ones down the stretch that made a big difference.
The bright spot was that Carolina won the turnover margin by a large margin, forcing 18 turnovers and only giving up seven. However, the low number of turnovers by Carolina may have owed to Vandy's strategy of defending to deny the shot rather than aggressively going for takeaways, which turned out to be an excellent strategy. Moreover, Carolina didn't get many points off the turnovers. There were a couple of what can only be described as extremely poor finishes off what looked like promising opportunities for points off takeaways.
It was also really nice to see the arena full for the first time in quite a while. Hopefully, fans will continue to support this team. It's going to struggle this year, but it's doing its best to stay competitive, and I don't foresee many of the kinds of blowouts we've suffered in recent years. Other than Florida, there aren't any teams in the SEC that look completely unbeatable for us, so more closely contested basketball is to come.
The Gamecocks travel to Columbia, MO to take on a struggling Mizzou team this coming week.