Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
After weeks of frustrating close losses, the Gamecocks left no room for a comeback to the Arkansas Razorbacks this afternoon, blowing out the Hogs 75-54. This was clearly the best performance of the season for Carolina, which shot the ball unbelievably well while the Hogs--a mid-tier but not awful SEC team--struggled from the field. Brian Richardson had one of his best games, scoring 20 and taking in six boards.
This game actually started out looking very grim for Carolina, with Arkansas building a sizeable lead in the opening minutes. The Hogs played aggressive defense for much of the game, with a full-court press and an attacking man-to-man in the half court, and it gave Carolina fits at first, forcing a handful of turnovers that led to easy Arkansas baskets. However, Carolina adjusted well and began doing a better job of protecting the ball and exploiting Arkansas's aggression to find easy shots. And the shots fell in this game, with Carolina shooting well over 50%, both in general and from downtown. Even Lakeem Jackson hit a three. Arkansas, on the other hand, couldn't seem to hit anything, particularly from beyond the arc. The Hogs shot 2-16 from three.
The three players who really stood out to me were Richardson, Laimonas Chatkevecius, and Mindaugas Kacinas. Richardson was on fire from outside, but he also impressed me with his aggressive, heady play around the basket. It will be interesting to see who gets more minutes as the season progresses, he or Damien Leonard. Both are improving, but both are inconsistent. If I had to say, I think Richardson is the better of the two currently, but he'll probably prove me wrong next time. Chatkevecius and Kacinas also played well today, playing good defense on the block, working the boards, and scoring some buckets. Martin has moved to starting Chatkevecius over R.J. Slawson at center, and the move seems to be working. Slawson is generally a non-factor, whereas Chatkevecius generally seems good for a couple of nice post moves and some put-backs. I could see him developing into a pretty nice player as his career progresses.
My only concern about this game is that I wonder if the Gamecocks can reproduce it. It's great to get a win and hopefully some confidence going, but the Gamecocks shot over their heads in this game, and Arkansas isn't as bad as it looked. In any event, this was a great win for Carolina. It was great to get the losing streak off our backs.