After three-straight double-digit losses, the Gamecocks managed to keep things close throughout this afternoon's game against the Tennessee Volunteers. Unfortunately, though, the end result was the same, with the Gamecocks losing 66-61. Michael Carrera notched a double-double for the Gamecocks, but it was Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes who was the performer of the game, scoring 20 and bringing down 10 boards.
If there's one positive thing to take from the last few weeks of disappointing play, it's been the continued development of Carrera on the offensive end. Carrera's post game and his ability to work himself open for and to knock down mid-range jumpers has improved measurably over the course of the season. I was skeptical about the ability of a 6'5 power forward to make a positive difference in the SEC, but Carrera's future looks brighter and brighter as the season progresses. If he can continue developing his game and add some substantial muscle over the off-season, he could have a very memorable career here.
That said, there are drawbacks to lacking height at this level of play, and the Gamecocks suffered one of those today. Stokes, an NBA-quality forward, dominated the Gamecocks' front line. Until he puts on more weight, Carrera is going to have problems against players like Stokes, and even then, Carrera's lack of height will still be a drawback. Carrera would likely be more effective on the defensive end of the floor if he played alongside a more traditional center or power forward, in which case Martin would have options and wouldn't have to rely on Carrera as much against bigger players. Hopefully, Martin can convince Demetrius Henry to join the team. Henry recently named the Gamecocks one of his top three along with hometown South Florida and Miami. Henry would provide a good counterpart to Carrera.
Until then, and until the incoming guards hopefully improve our play at those positions, we're out of luck. The team fought hard today, but too little talent led yet against to too few plays down the stretch.