The Gamecocks played their best game of the season in a 78-45 blowout victory over the Akron Zips. Carolina opened fairly well and held a 30-24 lead at the half, but they really blew the game open in the second half, when they rode a string of forced turnovers and torrid shooting to widen the gap. Brenton Williams was the offensive star of the game for Carolina. Williams scored 24 points and shot 6-9 from downtown, at one point looking like he couldn't miss a shot.
The Gamecocks excelled both offensively and defensively in this game. Offensively, we appear to be making significant progress running our half-court set. We had good ball movement and used screens to allow our guards to drive the basket. We had 18 assists, showing both that we're finally beginning to run a sufficiently coherent offense to set up open shots as well as that our guys are being unselfish both in the half-court game and in transition. Top all of that off with over 50% shooting from downtown and over 45% overall and you have the makings of a strong offensive performance.
As well as we played on offense, our defense may have been even more impressive. Carolina held the Zips to 32.5% from the field, and it was easy to see why. Carolina played with intensity and discipline on defense, making the Zips work hard to move the ball around and forcing them to earn every basket. Duane Notice, Sindarius Thornwell, and Ty Johnson all stood out as players who were working to contest every pass and to deny Akron's guards access to the basket. Michael Carrera has been playing a little more on the block in the past two games and has made his presence felt. This was a team effort, though, and there was little to be disappointed in on the defensive side of things. When you hold your opponent to five assists and 45 points, you played well on defense.
My only real complaint about our performance today was that we missed an unusual number of easy shots, particularly early in the game. We missed multiple layups, and Demetrius Henry missed a few short jumpers that he needs to make going forward, although it should be mentioned that Henry made up for it later in the game. We could have had a double-digit lead at the half if not for these misses. It says a lot about how well we ran our offense that we shot for a high percentage despite missing several gimmes.
Going forward, Carolina needs to beat mediocre Marshall and S.C. State teams to go into conference play with a winning record. If we can continue to improve, and it certainly appears that we've made progress since the loss to USC-Upstate, we'll have a marginal chance at finishing above .500 on the season if we can get to conference play at 7-6.